Samsung has started selling the Wi-Fi version of its Chromebook laptop. The 12.1in screen laptop has a 1280x800-pixel non-reflective screen and weighs 1.45kg. Key selling points for the Google Chrome OS laptop, which will also be offered in a Wi-Fi + 3G version "later this summer", are its netbook-level pricing and instant-on credentials. The Chromebook Wi-Fi edition costs £349 inc VAT.
At the European launch event in London, Samsung and Google demonstrated the Chromebook’s ability to resume from standby in a matter of seconds. SP Kim, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics Europe, said the Chromebook would require "about 10 seconds from on to off to the user being online and starting to type".
Kim spoke of the Chromebook as an "always connected, instant-on device" that was far less complex than most notebooks because it offered "nothing but the web". He also announced that the Samsung Chromebook would be a contract-free device.
Launch partners for the Samsung Chromebook in the UK are Amazon and mobile operator 3, while Telefonica – owner of O2 – was tagged by Samsung as an important launch partner in mainland Europe. Mobile operator 3 will provide three months of free 3G web access (up to a maximum of 6GB usage) as part of the package when the Chromebook is bought from the them. After this, customers will be able to choose another mobile network provider or buy data from 3 on a PAYG basis.
Samsung has done rather a neat job of designing a lightweight laptop on which to run the Google OS. The Samsung Chromebook is the first hardware that will launch with Google’s take on an operating system preinstalled. It has two USB 2.0 ports and an SD card slot - needed if you'd like to view anything on the laptop such as a series of photos or some music. There's also a concealed SIM card slot, reflecting the fact that later models will be primed for 3G use.
However, it’s no secret that what’s termed an OS is actually a collection of web apps. Until offline versions of Gmail, Calendar and Google Docs launch later this summer, there will be little a Chromebook user can do with their £349 Wi-Fi-enabled laptop should the web connection cut out. With no onboard storage to talk of and no desktop apps to run, the Chromebook is launching as little more than a shell. But the potential for such a device is clear to see.