Today at Google I/O the company finally unveiled the first consumer-ready Chromebooks. Taking the feedback from the Cr-48 pilot program and the individuals, businesses, and governments that participated, Google has updated the Chrome OS and finalized the hardware with their partners.
The first two Chromebooks, made by Samsung and Acer, will feature dual-core Intel CPUs and come in two versions: Wi-Fi only and integrated 3G.
Samsung’s offering, the Series 5, sports a 12-inch display (300 nits of brightness, whoa) and promises all day (8.5 hours) battery life. It will have an HD webcam, built-in microphone, and 2 USB ports (that can charge mobile devices). The package looks pretty sweet, and Samsung says that the device is only 0.79-inches thick and 3.3 pounds. The Wi-Fi version costs $429, the 3G version costs $499.
Acer’s offering is a mite smaller — 11.6-inch display — but features a full-size keyboard. The Wi-Fi version will cost $349, the 3G version will cost more. How much more Google didn’t say.
In the U.S., 3G will be provided by Verizon and, like the Cr-48, users will get 100MB free per month and can buy more data at the same prices as was offered to pilot program participants.
Along with the hardware announcements, Google showed off some of the enhancements to Chrome OS, particularly around file management. There’s a new File Manager that opens in a Chrome tab and recognizes removable media, cameras, etc. Apps will also have the ability to register themselves as file handlers and associate with file types. So, for instance, if you have an SD card full of images, the Picasa app will recognize that and show up in the file manager as a choice for what users can do with their pictures. In addition to adding this ability to their own apps, such as Picasa and Docs, Google also worked with several companies to bring this functionality at launch, such as Box.net.
Also new to the OS: a media player. It will play music tracks and video from removable media in a panel (a window outside of the tabbed browser) and, in the case of video, in full screen.
Even with 3G and WiFi connectivity, sometimes users will need to access their apps and data while offline. To this end, Google says that GMail, Calendar and Docs will have offline capability by the summer. This ties in nicely with the greater local saving/caching capabilities of the OS.
Excited yet? If you’re ready to go buy a Chromebook now… you still have a bit of a wait. Both the Samsung and Acer models will be available on June 15 from Amazon and BestBuy.com. No word yet when they’ll be available in physical stores. Aside from the U.S., they’ll also be available in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy on the same day with 3G availability from carriers in those countries.
We’re looking forward to getting a hands-on with the Samsung Chromebook later tonight, so keep an eye on the blog.