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Buoyed by Chrome OS success in schools, Lenovo unveils two new Chromebooks

Matt Hamblen | May 7, 2014
The N20 and N20p models start at $279 and ship this summer

Rodrigue couldn't say whether previous Lenovo Chrome OS models have done better in sales than the Windows models, since the Windows versions started selling earlier.

Lenovo first "had a lot of success" with Chromebooks with the Lenovo ThinkPad X131e, which could either be purchased with the Windows or Chrome OS. "That became the second-best selling ThinkPad," she added.

Lenovo is the largest seller of laptops in the education sector; Chromebooks are now used in 5,000 U.S. schools, with one-third of all laptops used in schools Chromebooks, she said. "We're seeing a large percentage of commercial notebooks going the Chromebook route."

The consumer-grade N20 and N20p are partly a response to the success of Chromebooks within schools, she said.

Some educators have raised reservations about using Chromebooks, which function best with an Internet connection. The problem is that about one in four Americans still don't have broadband Internet connections at home (above 4 Mbps for downloads), which means that educators might save on low-cost Chromebooks for their students, but risk having students go home to a slow, or non-existent, Internet connection.

"With Chromebooks, you are dependent on connectivity and lack of connectivity is certainly a concern," Rodrigue said. "We're seeing now you can still do quite a bit with Chromebooks offline, but that's about 20% of what you can normally do with a [traditional] laptop."

Lenovo has worked to build partnerships with schools and advisory councils to develop more Wi-Fi hotspots for use by students, she said.

Google, which designed the Chrome OS based on Linux and the Chromebook concept, recently said it is interested in providing public, outdoor Wi-Fi to connect to its expanding Google Fiber networks in cities, but whether that directly benefits schools and students is so far unclear.


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