Google smartbook expected this month
The computer uses the Chrome operating system.
By Paul Ausick, InvestorPlace.com
Is there room in the marketplace for another netbook? Google Inc. (GOOG) seems to think so, as do partners Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and Acer Inc. Just about everyone else thinks netbooks are heading for extinction as customers flock to the iPad and other manufacturers race to get their own tablets out the door.
Google apparently didn't get the memo. The company first talked about this smartbook -- Googlespeak for netbook -- over a year ago. Now DigiTimes reports that Google will launch it later in November, followed by similar products from HP and Acer in December.
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The smartbooks use Google's "other" operating system -- Chrome OS, which the company touts as an "open-source, lightweight" OS that will run on chip sets from Intel Corp. (INTC) and processors from ARM Holdings (ARMH). The Google version uses ARM chips.
Google will not sell the smartbooks through retail outlets, instead limiting shipments to 60,000 to 70,000 units that the company will presumably ship directly. Google's units will be built by Taiwanese PC maker Inventec Corp. HP and Acer intend to use another Taiwanese maker, Quanta Computer.
If this sounds like the model that Google followed with its Nexus One smart phone, well, it is. And that didn't turn out too well, as Google sold a mere 135,000 units. So why do the same thing again?
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The short manufacturing run leads to the conclusion that Google intends only to ship what appears to be a reference model that other computer makers can use to jump-start their own manufacturing. If that's the case, then the small manufacturing run makes sense.
Unlike Apple, Google does not appear to want to own the hardware and software platform. Rather, Google wants to control development of the OS in order to push its Google Docs into the fast-growing enterprise cloud-computing space. There's money to be made there, with the added advantage of undercutting the stranglehold that Microsoft (MSFT) enjoys on enterprise productivity applications. (Microsoft owns and publishes MSN Money.)
That's just speculation, of course, but nothing about the way Google has approached the launch of Chrome OS or the smartbook indicates that the company plans to hit the hardware space in a big way. We'll know more by the end of November for sure.
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