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Google’s Chrome OS Laptop a Future Rival to Microsoft

Google Unveils 12.1-Inch Laptop
Eric Schmidt, chairman and chief executive officer of Google Inc. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

Google Inc. unveiled a laptop that runs its Chrome operating system, providing an alternative to computer software from Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc.

The unbranded device boasts a 12.1-inch screen and includes mobile-Internet connection options from Verizon Wireless, Mountain View, California-based Google said during a conference and on a blog today. The Chrome computer is available for tests by some consumers and businesses, Google said.

By designing a browser-based operating system to power netbooks and laptops, Google may pose a challenge to Microsoft’s Windows, the market leader, and Apple’s software. Still, Google may not quickly erode the incumbents’ lead, said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners in New York.

“While it’s exciting, it doesn’t mean PCs are going to melt away tomorrow,” said Gillis, who has a “hold” rating on Google and doesn’t own any shares. “It’s going to be 2013 before there’s any impact that is noticeable.”

Chrome notebooks will be available from Samsung Electronics Co. and Acer Inc. in the first half of 2011. Companies and agencies including Virgin America Inc. and the U.S. Defense Department will test the new laptops, Google said. Windows, Microsoft’s flagship product, runs about 90 percent of the world’s personal computers.

“With Chrome OS we have the development of a viable, third choice in real operating systems,” Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said at the event.

Chrome Store

Schmidt said in July Google’s operating software will eventually be on millions of personal computers. The laptop has Wi-Fi and 3G Internet connectivity provided by Verizon Wireless, the mobile phone company owned by Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group Plc, Google said.

It takes 7 seconds to boot up Chrome OS and 3 seconds to log in, Google has said. Chrome OS will use the Chrome browser that Google made available last year. Google also said it improved browser speed, simplicity and security, and that its user base has grown this year to 120 million from 40 million.

The company also said today that there are 500 applications in its Chrome Web store, which opens today and was announced in May. Inc.’s Kindle books can be purchased and read within the browser’s store. National Public Radio also has an app in the store.

Google’s new online store for software will appeal to people accustomed to easily downloading and using mobile apps on Apple iPhones and other handsets, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Consumers think differently about using software because of their experience using smartphones,” Epps said. “Software is now apps, but it’s also the browser, and with Chrome Web Store, Google is presenting content on both fronts.”

Google rose 1.5 percent to $587.14 as of 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares have fallen 5.3 percent this year.

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