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Google To Sell Chromebooks To Businesses As Monthly Subscription

Acer and Samsung will begin selling Google Chromebooks next month, and Google plans to sell a hardware and software Chromebook subscription to business and education customers.

The Samsung Chromebook is priced at $429 and includes a 12.1-inch display, solid state drive, 8-hour battery life, full- size keyboard, built-in Wi-Fi and 3G, and cloud-based storage. The Acer Chromebook is priced at $349 and features an 11.6-inch display, 6.5 hours of battery life, Wi-Fi and 3G.

Best Buy and Amazon will begin taking online orders for both on June 15, and they'll be available the same day from online retailers in the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

Chromebooks' price tag will make them attractive to consumers, but Google has much larger ambitions: It's offering Chromebooks as a monthly subscription to business and education customers. In addition to Chromebook hardware, the subscription includes a Web-based management console, automatic updates, warranty, support, and hardware lifecycle upgrades. It's priced at $28 per user monthly for businesses and $20 per user monthly for education customers.

Devices are only part of the cost associated with PCs -- it’s even more expensive to manage and administer these machines, said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, in a Q&A.

"When you buy a PC, it works great on the first day, but when you install apps it slowly starts degrading over time. We think we can make the experience better over time," Pichai said.

With the subscription plan, Google will use the same support it provides to Google Apps For Enterprise customers, said Caesar Sengupta, director of product management for Chrome.

After three years, Google will refresh customers' hardware with the newest Chromebook generation, and if a machine malfunctions prior to that, customers will get a replacement, Pichai said. Although they're inexpensive, Pichai dismissed the notion of price being the main selling point for Chromebooks.

"These aren't meant to be cheap computers," Pichai said. "They're meant to offer a great computing experience for schools and businesses."

Most companies can switch 75 percent of their users to Chromebooks today through a combination of Web applications and virtualization, according to Pichai. Google is partnering with Citrix and VMware on getting enterprise applications interoperable with Chromebook, and the companies plan to offer specifics on how this will work in a press conference later on Wednesday.

Chromebooks are Google's attempt to define an end-to-end Web-based computing experience: They're always connected, offer long battery life, boot quickly and download and install updates automatically. All Chromebook data is backed up in the cloud, and it's also encrypted.

Google six months ago launched its pilot program for the CR-48, its first Chromebook, and has had one million applicants to date, Pichai said.

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