Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said he's intrigued by the idea of a purely Web-based computer and said the enterprise might be too.
"First, it's much more secure," Kerravala said. "All the content and apps live in the cloud, so if a device is lost or stolen, there's no risk. And it's great for road warriors because it's instant-on and doesn't have the usual issues of having to update patches. It's all automatic."
Olds added that the Chromebook isn't a powerful machine, but it doesn't need to be. Samsung will sell a Wi-Fi-only model for $429 that has an Intel Atom dual-core processor, 12.1-in. display, two USB ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot, and a full-size keyboard and trackpad. The Acer machine will have an 11.6-in., LED-backlit LCD display, an Intel Atom dual-core processor, a high-definition webcam, two USB ports, a 4-in-1 in memory card slot, an HDMI port and a full-size keyboard and trackpad. It will sell for $349.
"The market they're aiming at is someone who needs Web connectivity above all -- for email, IM and Web applications," Olds said. "I can see it being used by people who need or want a bigger screen, who are in locations where they're always connected to the Net, but don't need a full slate of software resident on the machine."
However, Olds noted that Google will have its hands full supporting two different operating systems -- Chrome and the Android mobile OS.
"While Chrome and Android both share common Linux roots, they're still somewhat different in terms of the hardware they run on and their respective architectures," he explained. "It's a challenge to fully support even one OS stream, much less two. It's going to be interesting to see how well Google handles this."
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said another issue is whether the market wants or will accept a new OS and another device. While the market may not have been clamoring for them, that doesn't mean it won't be open to them.
"With the right marketing and focus, as Apple demonstrated with the iPad and Microsoft with Windows 7, the market can be made ready for something new and different," Enderle said. "The issue for Google is they generally suck at marketing, and that is why most of their tablets aren't selling at the moment. If they don't fix this, it is likely the Chrome OS will stall as well."
Despite the challenges, Kerravala said Google is making a smart move. "This is all based on the fact that we're living in the cloud now," he said. "And we are, so why not create a device that's optimized for that?"
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