Google took another step toward the enterprise this week when executives unveiled the "Chromebook," a notebook PC that could boost both its new operating system and cloud apps.
The Chromebooks are a vehicle for Google's Chrome OS, pushing out the operating system not only into the consumer market, but also into the prized enterprise market. For some time, Google has been focused on making its mark in the enterprise with products ranging from its cloud-based office applications to its Chrome browser and Android mobile platform.
"They aren't going to make a lot of money in the short term on either the OS or the devices, but they're playing a longer-term game here," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "What it does is give people an inexpensive Net-enabled device that is tailor-made for Google's personal productivity and other applications."
Google can only benefit by continuing to move users' computing experience toward the Web, said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner. "Chromebook is intended to be a better netbook -- Web-optimized, lightweight, secure and easier to administer," he added. "It won't compete directly against conventional laptops and tablets, although certain segments of the market will overlap in all three categories."
Olds described the Chromebook as a "tweener" device, sitting between a smartphone and netbook and a full-fledged laptop.
Consumers will be able to order the first Chromebooks, which will come from Samsung and Acer, on June 15 from Amazon.com and Best Buy.
Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Chrome, said at the conference Wednesday that Google will also sell Chromebooks on a subscription basis to businesses, starting at $28 per user. The company also will sell them to schools and government organizations, for $20 per user.
Olds noted that trying to push out a new operating system is generally a tough sell because software developers don't want to write apps for an operating system until there are a lot of devices running it, nor do customers want to buy a device that doesn't have a lot of cool apps to go with it.
Google already has its own cloud-based apps that can take advantage of the OS and the device.
"Chrome may be able to sidestep this issue because the Web is really its major app," said Olds. "In a lot of ways, it's just a browser on steroids running on a device that's optimized for it."