The top-selling laptop at Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) is made by Samsung and powered by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). Say hello to the Chromebook, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), and Toshiba. This is what you're competing with in the battle to stay atop the sales charts.

Detractors might find the Chromebook's rank surprising. After all, this is a "webtop" incapable of performing any meaningful work without an Internet connection. And we know from research that AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are struggling to meet the demands of mobile data users. 

Yet as my Foolish colleague Rick Munarriz points out, some find the idea of cheap, on-the-go computing on the cloud attractive. And at $500, the Chromebook is about half the lowest price for Apple's MacBook Air. (Cheap Acer and Dell machines are priced about the same or less, however.)

So what if the Chromebook lacks offline access? Being tethered to the Web also eliminates the need for antivirus tools and manual software upgrades. Small-business users who lack a professional IT team must love the idea of using zero-maintenance systems, though initial reports suggest that large organizations also see the appeal. Computerworld says the city of Orlando, Fla., is trying out 600 of the devices.

I'd love to give you a more personalized look at the Chromebook, but as with so many others, I'm on a waiting list that appears to be about five weeks long. The Arctic White 3G model I was promised during the Google I/O developer conference is due to arrive between Aug. 3 and 10. I'll be eager to review it.

In the meantime, if you already have a Chromebook and have thoughts to share, please do so using the comments box below. You can also tell us why you wouldn't buy a Chromebook.

Either way, there's a new breed of browser-based webtops on the way, and they have the potential to change how we think about acquiring and using computing power. It's a disruptive shift, one that investors shouldn't ignore.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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