It looks as though a dozen or so American businesses will be giving Google's new attempt at the network computer a serious trial. Taiwan-based DigiTimes reports that Inventec has "already shipped about 60,000 Chrome OS-based netbooks to Google" for the pilot programme announced yesterday (see Google: Chrome OS netbooks coming in mid 2011). One thing's certain: Google isn't going to be handing out 60,000 free netbooks to consumers.
Google said that the first branded products will come from Acer and Samsung, though it's not yet clear which of the Taiwanese ODMs will actually manufacture the devices. DigiTimes says:
Acer has cooperated with Quanta Computer to develop a 10.1-inch Atom N550-based Chrome OS netbook, featuring both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules; however, Acer is conservative about market demand as consumers normally have a difficult time changing their PC habits.
These habits include attaching cameras, phones, printers and other devices via USB ports, which is going to be a bit of a problem for a relatively dumb device like a Chrome OS netbook. In the business market, however, the inability to work with common devices or to run software such as Apple's iTunes may well be considered advantageous.
But any sales will be great news for Google. The company's vice president Sundar Pichai says: "We see direct revenue benefits when people move to Chrome."
Chrome OS users are more likely to use Google for searches, where advertising provides profits. Since users will not be able to run their own copies of Microsoft Office or LibreOffice, they may well become locked in to Google Apps and Docs.
The success of both Chrome OS and Android could leave Google owning the dominant desktop and mobile phone operating systems, the dominant search engine, all the dominant online applications, and the two dominant app stores. There will still be room for a few other websites, of course, but Google will have a degree of control not seen since the great days of IBM.
Branding-free Google Cr-48 netbook