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Tuesday, 19 March 2013 10:13

Google's Chromebook finally lands down under Featured

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Samsung's Chromebook Samsung's Chromebook

Google’s taste of the cloud-based future, Chromebooks, are now finally available in Australia, posing a new threat to the Windows/Mac duopoly.

Acer and Samsung both announced they’re releasing their own Chromebooks, notebooks powered by Google's cloud operating system Chrome OS, from today in Aussie retailers.

Although they’ve been available in the United States since June 2011, the launch marks the first time Australians have been able to purchase a Chromebook locally, as a new potential major competitor to Windows and Mac emerges.

The timing seems to be perfect, with Windows 8 sales still sluggish and Apple's Mac operating system not having had a new full update for quite some time.

Google will be banking on changing user habits, with a rising number of users eschewing traditional apps like Microsoft Word for online equivalents.

Chromebooks are larger than netbooks but generally more lightweight than their traditional Windows and Mac counterparts, but the key differences lie under the hood.

Google Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system designed by Google to work exclusively with web applications, with the operating system offering access to the company's Web Store where users can download Google Docs, along with apps like Gmail, Google Maps and games.

Third-party apps can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store if needed, although the operating system is centered around Google’s Chrome browser, given that users are spending most of their time in a browser rather than outside it.

The operating system can also be used offline if needed.

Samsung and Acer are the first off the mark in producing the Chromebook, but more companies are set to join the fray, with an HP model on the way according to Google Australia.

Google said Chromebooks are known for their fast boot times, ease of use and security, and have proven extremely popular so far with educational institutions in the US like universities.

A number of different vendors, including Samsung and Acer, have targeted the education market with Chromebooks, with a Google-sponsored study by IDC finding that the notebooks reduced support labour by 92 per cent compared to regular desktop PCs and laptops.

By January 2013, Acer's Chromebook sales were being driven by "heavy Internet users with educational institutions", and the platform represented 5-10 percent of the company's U.S. shipments, according to Acer president Jim Wong.

He called those numbers sustainable, contrasting them with low Windows 8 sales which he blamed for a slump in the market.

Google will likely be pushing to sign similar education deals in Australia.

Although Chromebooks are equipped with local storage, most users will use Google's Drive cloud storage option, with 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years included with any purchase of a Chromebook.

Acer's Chromebook will be available for $299 in Australia and sports an Intel Celeron 847 1.1GHZ CPU, accompanied by 2GN of DDR3 RAM

It has an 11.6-inch, 1366x768-pixel display and a 320GB hard drive.

The Samsung Chromebook will retail for $349.

Although Chromebooks have until now been generally budget devices, Google last month unveiled a high-end model Chromebook Pixel, which has a 2560x1700-pixel touchscreen display and uses a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor.

The launch details of that device have yet to be announced, but local pricing is expected to be between $1,500 and $2,000.

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