By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated May 01, 2013.
More action on the Chromebooks front. Computer makers Acer and Asus are reportedly getting new Chromebook models ready for release later this year. And Google is said to be prepping a model featuring Intel's coming, low-powered Haswell processor, as well as planning new models priced as low as $200.
The new Acer Chromebook will reportedly have an 11.6-inch screen and is targeted for sale by July, and the Asus version is expected by the third or fourth quarter. Acer has a $199, 11.6-inch model, but, according to news reports, sales of that device dropped from previous sales of up to 200,000 units monthly to about 20,000 to 30,000 in January. The new Acer model is said to be targeted at students, and this will be Asus's first Chromebook.
Google is also said to be planning a major marketing campaign over the next few months in support of Chromebooks. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Samsung are also rumored to be preparing new Chromebooks. As cloud-based, thin client machines, Chromebooks are seen as being more secure than conventional personal computers. Other advantages include ease of updates, maintenance, backup, and the ability for any user to use any machine.
Google is rumored to be working on a new Chromebook, code-named Slippy, which utilizes the Intel Haswell chip, and features an SD memory card slot and 2 USB 3.0 ports. Haswell is a fourth-generation Core processor chip, providing better performance but requiring lower power than the current Ivy Bridge processors. Haswell-equipped devices are expected to start appearing this summer.
In February, Google launched a branded, high-end Chromebook called the Pixel, with an ultra-high resolution 2560x1700 touchscreen, 32 or 64 GB of solid state storage, a terabyte of cloud-based Google Drive storage, an Intel 1.8 GHz Core i5 processor, and 4 GB of memory. It was also distinguished by carrying the highest price tag yet for a Chromebook: about $1,200.
This week, Google announced a Managed Public Sessions feature for Chrome OS, which allows devices utilizing that operating system to be more easily used as in-store kiosks.
In the big picture of market share, Chrome OS is barely registering. According to Net Applications, which just recently started monitoring Chrome OS, the Web-oriented platform accounts for only about 0.0002 percent of the market.
'A Place for Them'
Nevertheless, there is evidence that Chromebooks are gaining some traction in some market segments. In January, for instance, Acer President Jim Wong told news media that Chromebooks accounted for 5 percent to 10 percent of his company's U.S. shipments since their release in November. The financial journal The Street has reported that some enterprises are ready to have as many as 20 percent of their employees try Chromebooks.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said it was "inevitable PC makers would look for alternatives," given slow sales for Windows computers and competition from Windows' maker, Microsoft, in the form of Surface tablets.
He added that, although he'd prefer to see some hard sales figures, his current take is "there's a place for them, but not necessarily a majority place." With near-zero configuration and what Greengart called "the ultimate thin client," the device may be finding a home in school systems and other large organizations.