Google And Acer Crank Out A Bargain Chromebook

Two hundred bucks for a laptop with a 320GB hard drive and 100GB of free storage space on Google's cloud sounds llke a steal. But will it be enough to get normal people to start using Chromebooks instead of traditional laptops? Google is hoping so.

Monday morning, Google's Chromebook team announced the Acer C7 Chromebook, a 3-pound notebook that is one inch thick and boasts an 11.6-inch high-resolution screen. The Chromebook runs Google's Chrome OS and Chrome browser. It's meant to be used online. You can get all the specs here.

In the "good news, bad news" department, the C7 boots up in 20 seconds (good) but has only 3.5 hours (huh?) of battery life.

The Acer unit comes on the heels of Samung's $250 model announced last month: See Finally, A Properly Priced Google Chromebook

The Affordable, Connected Computer

The notion of a lightweight computer that's constantly connected to the Internet has long held appeal, in theory anyway. Others have tried it, including New Internet Computer (NIC), a startup funded by Larry Ellison and run by my pal Gina Smith more than a decade ago.

But nobody has ever been able to make this idea work in real life. Customers just don't seem to want these machines.

Google positioned the original Chromebook as a low-cost and low-hassle solution for busineses. Why dish out big bucks for a bunch of Windows PCs or Macs, and then spend even more money paying techies to keep them updated, when you could just buy a low-cost Chromebook that had all its apps in the cloud and could keep itself up to date?

Great pitch, but it didn't work, partly because initial models were far too expensive. And partly because the hardware itself lacked polish. Many units went out with faulty trackpads, for example. All that improved somewhat this spring with the introduction of new Chromebooks and Chromeboxes - but even those machines got mixed reviews: See new Chromebook & Chromebox Are Good Enough To Grab Minds & Market Share and Why The New Chromebook Still Doesn't Cut It.

Aimed At Entry-Level Consumers

Now Google is focusing the new Chromebook as a machine for mom-and-pop home users who just want a simple way to get online, where "your stuff is always available and everything just works." 

Google is touting a feature that lets you create multiple accounts so that mom, dad and kids can share a single machine. 

Will this thing take off? Is the world finally ready for a network-attached computer? For $200, it seems like a no-brainer.

What do you think? Would you buy one of these? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Google.