HP entering the Chromebook arena next month

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Section of the leaked PDF

Source: Ars Technica

When Google first introduced the Chromebook concept a lot of people scoffed at the idea of a laptop that only ran a web browser. Undaunted, Google got the party started by giving away a bunch of CR-48 Chromebooks in late 2010, with the first commercial units hitting the market in mid-2011. After a bit of initial excitement, these units from Acer and Samsung dropped off most people's radar and became hard to find.

But Google kept working on Chrome OS (and it's starting to feel more like an OS and less like a web browser) and both Samsung and Acer have stayed in the game. The first Chromebooks were frankly over-priced, but now you can get Acer's new C7 Chromebook for $199 which seems to be a price point that is getting some attention. Acer President Jim Wong told Bloomberg that the C7 has accounted for 5-10% of US shipments since it was released in November. Wong suggests the reason is that Chrome is more secure than Windows 8, but to be fair he seems to have an axe to grind with Microsoft.

I generally leave my Chromebook in the living room and use it when I need to look something up online or write an email. In a lot of ways it competes with my tablets. Tablets are better for consuming some kinds of data, but the Chromebook is much better for any kind of writing. My one real gripe is that the screen and keyboard are both fairly small. My (last generation) Acer feels more like a netbook than a laptop.

This is why I'm excited by a story making the rounds yesterday. Apparently HP had an issue with their online store and leaked the fact that we're going to see an HP Chromebook starting next month. The story comes from Slashgear, and the article links to a PDF on the HP site, though when I tried to check it out it came up blank. Ars Technica also covered this story and they seem to have grabbed a copy of the PDF that is accessible.

Assuming this is all on the up and up, HP will roll out a Pavillion Chromebook with a 14" screen and what looks to be a full-sized keyboard. Now the screen resolution will still only be 1366 x 768 and the processor is the same as on the Acer S7 (an Intel Celeron 847 running at 1.1 Ghz) so I'm hoping for a price closer to that of the Acer than Samsung's Series 5. The Series 5 has a 1.3 Ghz 867 CPU and a 12.1" 1200x800 screen, but it lists for $559 which puts us back in the 'why not just buy a Windows laptop' price range. The PDF lists an ad embargo date of February 17th so we should have a lot more details in just a few weeks.

It's good to see another manufacturer jumping into the Chromebook pool, and I appreciate that HP is providing a larger screen and a full sized keyboard, but I still want more. I'd like to see a Chromebook that is capable of playing back 1080P video. So far none of the models offered have the screen resolution or (I suspect) the processing power to do that. I understand why — one of the best features of these Chromebooks are their long battery life. But we need more options in this market, not a lot of me-too clones. Some users might appreciate more power even if they have to stay near an outlet.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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