Google's Giving Away Laptops!

The leading search engine is launching a pilot program for its new laptops.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Dec 8, 2010 at 12:00AM
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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.


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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.