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Google shows off new designs for Chromebooks, extends battery life, increases offline capabilities

In a joint press conference, Google and Intel announced lighter Chromebooks with 11+ hours of battery life and new offline capabilities. Will it be enough to entice the enterprise?

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Navin Shenoy, vice president of the PC client group at Intel, shows off a new Chromebook.
 Image: James Martin/CNET

At a joint press conference on Tuesday to unveil improvements in Chrome devices, Google and Intel introduced new processors for Chromebooks, talked up big battery life improvements, and showed off the ability to do more things offline.

Navin Shenoy, vice president of the PC client group at Intel and Caesar Sengupta, VP product management at Google, took turns addressing new features and products that have come from the two companies' partnership around Chrome OS.

Here's a quick summary of the main announcements:

  1. Chromebooks based on Intel's i3, Haswell, and Bay Trail processors
  2. Bay Trail devices will be thinner and faster with over 11 hours of battery life
  3. 20+ designs, with Intel being the only processor providing 64-bit to Chromebooks
  4. Chromebooks gaining traction in education, deployed in nearly 10,000 new schools
  5. New offline capabilities to watch movies and TV shows with Google Play Movies app
  6. Some Intel processors now being made conflict-free

Shenoy started with the Haswell-based products by highlighting a bright teal-colored HP Chromebox that would be available in June and a $349 LG Chromebase, which is an all-in-one desktop machine that was announced at CES 2014.

The beginning of the press conference was targeted at enterprise customers. Sengupta made a specific mention of business customers, including Auberge Resorts, that made the switch to Chrome from XP. Shenoy mentioned the popularity of the Chromebox with the enterprise, and mentioned that the HP model would have integrated hangout features like the Chromebox for meetings.

Google has already been aligning itself with trusted enterprise providers such as VMware and Citrix. Linking arms with Intel is a major step toward Google establishing itself as a major player in the enterprise.

"Intel is a top contributor to the Chrome OS," Shenoy said. "We are now the number two contributor to Google for open source."

The Bay Trail devices will, more than likely, be one of the key offerings to potential business customers. The Bay Trail processors have strong performance and don't use a lot of power, which helped Google extend the projected battery life of this new crop of Chromebooks to over 11 hours. The previous models topped out around 10, although some Chromebooks got far less than that. ASUS, Acer, Toshiba, and Lenovo are all planning Bay Trail Chromebooks.

Sengupta also reminded the audience of the updates that are pushed to Chromebooks every six weeks, absolving the users of manually updating the devices. That's a value-add for many IT departments that have to devote a lot of resources updating client machines.

The processor announcements were capped off by unveiling a Core i3 option for Chromebooks. An Acer Chromebook will be available at $349 with Core i3 this summer and Dell will be adding an i3 option to one of their Chromebooks as well.

Chromebooks' momentum in education was also highlighted. Chromebooks are now in nearly 10,000 new schools, continuing the traction that Chromebooks have already already gained. Intel showed off their reference platform for an education Chromebook alongside a few other models that were geared toward education customers, touting smaller sizes and increased durability. Intel has long been trying to catalyze the education market with devices such as its Classmate PC. The partnership with Google is a win for Chromebooks, since Intel has obviously chosen them as a potential winner in low-cost education devices.

One of the last major announcements was Intel's push to produce conflict-free processors. Processors contain tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold, all of which can be mined in conflict zones, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, by enslaved workers.

Other interesting announcements included the addition of Google Now and voice actions to Chromebooks, and more offline capabilities with Google Play. Offline functionality is a big deal in the enterprise since businesses don't want workers to be stuck if they have spotty connectivity. While the offline capabilities announced don't directly affect productivity features, they show Google is getting more conscious about the importance of offline capability.

"You can choose to be productive with Google Docs, or completely unproductive with your TV shows," Sengupta said.

Chromebooks are available in 20 countries and will be available in nine more over the next few months. No mention of a Chrome tablet just yet, but Shenoy said "we're aggressively pursuing new form factors."

When questioned on the possibility of a Chrome tablet or Android clamshell, Sengupta narrowly skirted the question; ending his response, by saying, "We're going to keep innovating."

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About

Conner Forrest is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. He covers Google and startups and is passionate about the convergence of technology and culture.

2 comments
Eamon_Walsh1
Eamon_Walsh1

Well, entice it will. No matter what the requirement or performance - the idea of hardware refresh has its merits, and it obviously finds the moneybags. bit.ly/1EogbKE 

adornoe
adornoe

Another way of putting it is: Google introduces a faster, longer-lasting, piece of junk. 

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