We have been waiting a year for Chrome OS to finally launch, but it took a significant step towards public availability at Google I/O. Google unveiled Acer 11.6in and Samsung 12.1in laptops, dubbed 'Chromebooks', both featuring Atom processors, small 16GB SSDs and battery life in excess of 6.5 hours. Pricing could be better with Samsung charging $499 for the 3G equipped model ($429 without) and Acer pricing its Chromebook at $349. More appealing could be Google's student and business rental deals for $20pm and $28pm respectively. A desktop Mac Mini-style Chromebook was also previewed.
Despite the arrival of tangible hardware the question still remains as to the role of Chrome OS and its insistence on a Cloud-only existence. Especially when a Linux or Windows install with a Chrome browser can offer the best of both online and offline functionality. Would it have been better simply to develop Android for laptops as it has done for tablets and use apps instead? Perhaps. Still Google updated Chrome OS and its webstore with new content (including Angry Birds) to dial up the PR offensive and with Chromebooks due on sale in June we should know soon whether its most radical of platforms has won friends or influenced people.
Taking Android's adaptability even further Google's 'Android@Home' is a set of protocols the company is opening up to enable the platform to control home appliances from light switches and blinds to home theatre systems, garage doors and alarm clocks. Having seen MTV Cribs, the appeal of controlling your household from your phone is undeniable, but whether a) major companies will adopt it, and b) consumers are happy literally giving Google the run of their homes is another thing entirely.
Google Movies for Android / YouTube rental
It may have trouble convincing music labels to join its streaming services, but there appears no such problem with Hollywood studios. The former is simple: Android users can now download movies from Android Market and watch them on their devices. Prices start from as low as $1.99 and rental periods last up to 30 days or 24 hours once a movie has been started.
Meanwhile YouTube has added 3,000 new titles to its previously low key rental service. Top tier titles like The Kings Speech, The Green Hornet (debatable) and the Harry Potter series suggests Google now means business and if only it could sort out streaming for Google Music a combined offering would set the cat amongst the pigeons. As it stands both services remain catch-up products rather than leading lights.
What Wasn't There
Ultimately Google I/O was a significant event and one which rightly caused a lot of excitement. Noticeably, however, there were omissions. It's 1 recommendations service was not reinforced by anything that would give Facebook sleepless nights, there was no significant eBook news or Chrome OS tablet plans and while confirming a Nexus 3 was inevitable Google said it won't unveil the smartphone until later this year suggesting it is nailed on to be the first Ice Cream Sandwich handset.
What would rivals conclude from Google I/O 2011? Google has once more upped its game, but it is currently in a state of evolution, not revolution.