Chromebooks have entered a new generation. This week, Google and Intel Relevant Products/Services unveiled new Net-based laptops from four manufacturers, featuring the faster and more power Relevant Products/Services-efficient Haswell processor Relevant Products/Services from Intel.

The new models were presented at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Wednesday, and the companies said they run 15 percent faster and with 50 percent more battery Relevant Products/Services life than current models. The new laptops are available from Acer, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Asus. These are Asus' and Toshiba's first Chromebooks, meaning that six of the top laptop manufacturers will now be selling models using this platform.

The new HP Chromebook 14 features a 14-inch display, offers 4G as an option, is available in a variety of colors and promises over nine hours of battery life. The HP 14 has a starting price of $300, and will be available for the holiday season. Other prices for the new models have not yet been announced.

Quarter of PCs Under $300

The Asus Chromebox desktop computer, a small desktop device being compared to a Mac Mini, is being promoted for kiosks or call centers, as well as for homes or businesses. The Acer model has an 11.6-inch screen and promises 8-1/2 hours of battery life.

The presentation was made by Doug Fisher, Intel's vice president of the Software and Services group. Fisher was joined by Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai, who said that, according to external analysts such as the NPD Group, about one-quarter of all PCs sales under $300 are now Chromebooks. He added that they were also being used in more than 5,000 U.S. schools.

With this foothold, Intel and Google are increasingly putting major resources behind the development of Chromebooks. Intel's Fisher pointed out that his company currently has more than 1,000 engineers working to develop and support Chromebooks.

'Nice Looking'

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Relevant Products/Services, told us that he's seen the new Chromebooks and they're "really nice looking." He pointed to the benefits of moving to Haswell processors, such as a single battery charge lasting as much as 10 hours a day.

King also said that the increase in Chromebook vendors is "testimony to this being a viable commercial offering," and he noted that Google has said Chromebooks are now in 20 percent of all school districts in the U.S. He added that these developments, plus the strong sales on Amazon and other outlets, indicate that Chromebooks "could become the first real challenge to the Microsoft and Apple hegemony" of computer operating systems.

In July, a report from Forrester Research found that, while the Chromebook platform will not replace all or even most Windows PCs, Macs or tablets, there was a beachhead of interest among enterprises. Benefits of the cloud Relevant Products/Services-based laptops include a radical reduction in maintenance time, encouragement of collaborative computing Relevant Products/Services, and a relatively low pricetag for each device.