Google's Giving Away Laptops!

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Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has buffed up its Chrome, and now it's time to show it off.

The world's leading search engine unveiled an updated Chrome operating system at a developers conference yesterday, as well as a dedicated Web apps store for its Chrome browser. If everything goes as planned, the first wave of laptops running Google Chrome will hit the market by the middle of next year.

If you can't wait that long, there's always Google's pilot program.

In an aggressive move, Google will be handing out its Cr-48 notebooks to individuals, businesses, schools, nonprofits, and developers that make the cut. Big G isn't announcing how many notebooks it will be giving away, though Taiwan's DigiTimes is reporting that the contract manufacturer for the device just shipped 60,000 units to Google for testing.

Arming a stadium-full of beta testers with laptops will quickly help work out any kinks -- and there will be kinks.

There's no free lunch. Were you expecting a free laptop that works seamlessly and without kicking in with the desired beta-testing feedback?

The unbranded laptops are pretty bare-boned, though it powers up in just 10 seconds and will feature integrated 3G connectivity from Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) when faster Wi-Fi isn't around. Owners will need Web access, because it's at the very heart of delivering Chrome's cloud-heavy experience. You didn't think Google would be dabbling in operating systems if it couldn't eventually sell online ads against it, right?

Google is revealing that Acer and Samsung will be the first computing giants to begin cranking out Chrome-fueled notebooks next year, but it won't be long before stateside heavies Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) follow suit. Even if Google may be creating a confusing marketplace with both its Chrome and Android operating systems at a time when tablets and netbooks are converging, a hardware giant would be nuts to look an open-source gift in the mouth.

As more and more computing functions move to Web-stored solutions -- and even the mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is promoting the migration in its latest "to the cloud" ads -- the actual operating systems won't be as relevant when programs are being run on servers elsewhere.

If 60,000 people will soon be Chrome ambassadors, Google is about to shake up another market -- initial kinks and all.

Is Google biting off more than it can chew here? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't calling for a search engine search party, but he may as well. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 08, 2010, at 2:35 PM, imagatr wrote:

    Google has been getting tons of positive press regarding the success of Android phones, but since Google doesn't actually manufacture phones, I've been struggling to understand the financial impact of "free" Android software provided to various smartphone manufacturers. Now we are being told that Google is about to "shake up another market" with Chrome. Assuming it will also be provided "free" to PC manufacturers, I'm sure the potential exists to see a rapid rise in market share of another "free" operating system. But how do we translate growing market share of a "free" product into stock valuation? There are scads of articles detailing the profit margins of iPhones, iPads, and Macs on a per unit basis. What is the profit margin or incremental revenue of each free Android license to Google? What is the total value of that incremental revenue across the entire market? If it is realized from increased ad clicks and ad revenue there should still be an incremental value associated with each "free" unit. I don't believe I have ever seen an article detailing the specific impact of Android in terms of Google valuations, only the broad reference to how it drives ad revenues.

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