updated 03:25 pm EST, Tue December 7, 2010
Google intros test Chrome OS netbook, Verizon 3G
Google at its Chrome event today unveiled Cr-48, a testbed netbook for Chrome OS. The 12-inch system is designed for early adopters willing to use Chrome OS in its beta state. It comes completely unbranded and has design touches rare on other netbooks, including an Apple-style clickable trackpad and a full keyboard that omits some traditional keys, such as Caps Lock and function keys.
The device will also center on an optional 3G connection. A Qualcomm Gobi modem is built in on the Cr-48, and future Chrome OS notebooks, to get on to Verizon's 3G network. It will include 100MB of "free" data for two years and will have an iPad-style plan system that will let users start or stop access whenever they want, without contracts.
Hacking is encouraged, Google said. Although Chrome OS is locked down, a switch under the battery will stop the usual verified boot and let users modify the install to their own aims.
Inside, the system is Intel-based with an Atom processor and has 802.11n Wi-Fi and a webcam. Its battery will last for about eight hours of active use and eight days on standby. Storage hasn't been detailed but should be a small SSD to keep in step with Google's quick boot, instant-resume goals.
The Cr-48 will only be available both within Google and to those who sign up for a Chrome OS Pilot Program (above). Electronista and others who attended the Chrome event today will get a model, but users either have to qualify through the submission form, through an earlier survey, or through submitting a video response to a competition on youtube.com/googlechrome saying why they deserve a unit.
As part of the news, however, Google revealed that its plans had been set back for a commercial launch. It admitted that some features, such as Cloud Print and USB storage, were in beta or otherwise unfinished. There was "some time left to go," it said. Acer and Samsung had committed to launching Chrome OS systems but now won't ship them until mid-2011, or almost a year later than planned. ARM also would have to wait for future development, but the platform isn't locked to x86.
The goals set back competition with Apple and Microsoft. Windows had already been in the same space through netbooks, but Apple is already preempting the the ultra-lightweight, web-focused category with the iPad and more recently the 11-inch MacBook Air. Google is hoping that the web will give Chrome OS an edge by reducing the requirements and providing continuous updates and tighter security than conventional PCs.