Google, Samsung Introduce New Chromebook, Chromebox Desktop

Samsung and Google jointly unveiled this week a second-generation Chromebook laptop and the market’s first Chromebox desktop, both of which are cloud-based and run on Google’s homegrown Chrome OS.

Like the software giant’s debut line of Chromebooks that are sold today from PC makers including Acer and Samsung, the new Series 5 Chromebook and Series 3 Chromebox -- also designed by Samsung -- come with built-in cloud storage capabilities, allowing users to access files, bookmarks or apps through a Google Chrome browser on any other device.

This cloud-based model also yields an overall faster user experience, Samsung and Google said. The new Chromebook and Chromebox, both of which run Intel Celeron Core processors and Google’s homegrown Chrome OS, perform nearly three times as quickly compared to first-generation Chromebooks. A multi-touch trackpad, along with an open-source firmware stack, are also said to contribute to the new devices’ amped-up speed.

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"This is the next step in our journey toward an always-new computing experience focused on speed, simplicity and security," said Caesar Sengupta, director of product management at Google, in a statement.

Apart from its integration with the cloud, Google differentiates its Chromebook line-up by its automatic software updates. Through Chrome, these updates are intended -- at least in Google’s words -- to keep things "always new," meaning users don’t have to manually install anti-virus protection or other security software because they will be pushed out automatically.

Both the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook and Series 3 Chromebox come with 16 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM. The latter requires users to provide their own keyboard and monitor, 30 inches or below.

Google first introduced Chromebooks last spring, which were initially met with skepticism by security experts who feared a cloud-based OS could leave user data vulnerable to attacks. They also, however, appeared to be a natural choice for enterprises already enrooted in the cloud.

Neither Google nor Samsung immediately responded when asked how many Chromebooks they have sold to date. Acer declined to comment, saying it doesn’t break out sales by product category.

NEXT: Resellers See Chromebook Demand In Schools, Government

After months of champing at the bit for an opportunity to resell these cloud-based notebooks, Google extended a Chromebook pilot program in December to a select group of its Apps resellers. Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta, Ga.-based solution provider and Google partner, said it represents one of a small group of partners reselling the devices.

According to Chris McGarry, vice president of strategic accounts at Cloud Sherpas, Chromebooks have been selling well within both the enterprise and vertical markets, especially where Google Apps or other cloud-based solutions are already being used.

"Chromebooks, and now Chromeboxes, are perfect solutions for certain groups of users within these organizations. With nearly all applications accessible online these days, the Chromebox, for example, can easily replace workstation kiosks found on factory floors, libraries, and anywhere a shared computer was previously," McGarry said in an email to CRN. "We see Chromebooks, the laptop form-factor, being used by road warriors in real estate, retail, distribution and other industries."

The automatic updates and cloud-based model delivered with Chromebooks also make them alluring to administrators, McGarry continued, who view them as being more low-maintenance than competing PCs.

"In all cases, the organizations were attracted to Chromebooks because they require nearly zero maintenance from the IT department, yet provide end-users with rich access to all of their key business applications," he said.

Daniel Jefferies, founder of New Mind Group, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based managed services provider, and fellow member of the Google Chromebook pilot reseller program, has noticed a similarly strong demand for the cloud-based notebooks, particularly in education.

The automatic security updates, along with faster boot-up times, make Chromebooks especially compelling to teachers, who are often pinched for time to refresh their systems between classes.

"In the classroom, you have students for usually one-hour blocks and so dealing with a virus could literally cut in half the instructional time you have with students," Jefferies told CRN. "Just dealing with logging into the device or a boot-up time that’s too long, can cut a quarter of your instructional time out."

Some of the Chromebook’s benefits also fall into the lap of the reseller, Jefferies continued. Many of these hardware sales often spur larger conversations about the need for further services, ranging from training to the roll-out of a more robust wireless network. This presents another opportunity for solution providers like New Mind Group to step in and create a fuller, end-to-end solution.

"That’s the reason that partners are in the mix, because of our flexibility to offer a bundle of everything needed by that particular school district … everything from professional development for their teachers, to technical set-up services and training and instruction for their technical folks," Jefferies said.

The Series 5 Chromebook Wi-Fi model starts at $449.99, while the 3G model starts at $549.99. The Series 3 Chromebox starts at $329.99, and all devices are available starting May 30.