Olds noted that trying to push out a new operating system is generally a tough sell because software developers don't want to write apps for an operating system until there are a lot of devices running it, nor do customers want to buy a device that doesn't have a lot of cool apps to go with it.
Google already has its own cloud-based apps that can take advantage of the OS and the device.
"Chrome may be able to sidestep this issue because the Web is really its major app," said Olds. "In a lot of ways, it's just a browser on steroids running on a device that's optimized for it."
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said he's intrigued by the idea of a purely Web-based computer and said the enterprise might be too.
"First, it's much more secure," Kerravala said. "All the content and apps live in the cloud, so if a device is lost or stolen, there's no risk. And it's great for road warriors because it's instant-on and doesn't have the usual issues of having to update patches. It's all automatic."
Olds added that the Chromebook isn't a powerful machine, but it doesn't need to be. Samsung will sell a Wi-Fi-only model for $429 that has an Intel Atom dual-core processor, 12.1-in. display, two USB ports, a 4-in-1 memory card slot, and a full-size keyboard and trackpad. The Acer machine will have an 11.6-in., LED-backlit LCD display, an Intel Atom dual-core processor, a high-definition webcam, two USB ports, a 4-in-1 in memory card slot, an HDMI port and a full-size keyboard and trackpad. It will sell for $349.
"The market they're aiming at is someone who needs Web connectivity above all -- for email, IM and Web applications," Olds said. "I can see it being used by people who need or want a bigger screen, who are in locations where they're always connected to the Net, but don't need a full slate of software resident on the machine."
However, Olds noted that Google will have its hands full supporting two different operating systems -- Chrome and the Android mobile OS.
"While Chrome and Android both share common Linux roots, they're still somewhat different in terms of the hardware they run on and their respective architectures," he explained. "It's a challenge to fully support even one OS stream, much less two. It's going to be interesting to see how well Google handles this."
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said another issue is whether the market wants or will accept a new OS and another device. While the market may not have been clamoring for them, that doesn't mean it won't be open to them.