Google offers new 11.6-in. Samsung Chromebook for $249

Some analysts say it is really a netbook and won't sell well

Google today announced a new low-priced clamshell-style Samsung Chromebook computer for $249 that runs the Chrome OS.

With an 11.6-in. display, a full-sized Chrome keyboard, overall weight of 2.5 pounds and a Samsung Exynos 5 dual-core processor, some analysts immediately called it a netbook instead of a full laptop.

That netbook moniker has negative connotions that could hurt sales, analysts said. Netbooks are seen as basically focused on browsing the Internet and accessing applications and data in the cloud instead of accessing on-board apps that are used offline. The new Samsung Chromebook will ship Wi-Fi-only.

"I don't see any benefit of getting a Chromebook," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. The new device "is basically a netbook with a Web-based OS on it. Why not just buy an Android device and actually be able to use plenty of apps?"

Gold said that a cost-conscious buyer might find $249 attractive for the new Chromebook, especially if it runs some Google apps. "But for another $100 or so, you can get a full laptop running Windows. That's a much better deal," Gold added.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said Google might not call the new device a netbook, a category that hasn't done well in the last year. "The light computing experience of the device in a clamshell form factor says netbook, whatever you call it," she said.

Gartner has projected "small volumes for Chrome in the consumer market," Milanesi added. Eventually, Android and Chrome should merge, she said.

"Consumers do not want to choose between apps and Internet; they want both," she added. "The $249 is certainly an interesting price point, but consumers have been burned with netbooks and will be cautious and look beyond the price tag."

Other device makers have backed off netbooks, sometimes in favor of tablets or ultrabooks, including Lenovo in February and Dell last year.

Intel said earlier this year that it would supply netbook processors as long as the processors continued selling in significant volumes.

There are some avid supporters of Chrome and Chromebooks, including JR Raphael, a Computerworld blogger. who has seen the latest device and plans a full review.

Raphael has evaluated earlier Chromebook models, including the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook and Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook.

Even though Raphael said the Chromebook is close to a traditional netbook, it is a fairly unique concept that has been underestimated and that "people seem to either love or hate." Chromebooks have been compared to thin clients and have been used in schools and businesses and in areas such as call centers because those organizations don't have to pay for software updates or complex set-up.

"For people who already live in the cloud and mainly rely on Web-based services like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, [the Chrome OS] eliminates much of the hassle of traditional computing," Raphael said. "No annoying drivers, no ridiculous OS updates, no crashes and conflicts and viruses."

Google said the 11.6-in. display will have a 1366 x 768 resolution. There will be 16GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM, with a six-hour-plus battery.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about netbooks in Computerworld's Netbooks Topic Center.

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