Google is now offering US organizations the opportunity to rent laptop or desktop computers running Google Chrome OS. Prices start at $30 per month for a Chromebox or $25 per month for a Chromebook.
The hardware is available on a monthly basis with no need to sign a contract, but prices actually go down the longer you rent a device. For instance, a Chromebook will run you $30 per month for the first year, but in the 13th month you’ll start paying $25. After 2 years, the monthly price drops to $20.
Chrome OS is an operating system based on Google’s Chrome web browser. The browser is pretty much the only app that you run on a Chromebook or Chromebox, but you can use that browser to handle music, movies, spreadsheets, presentations, or a wide range of other files or activities by installing web apps.
Google rolls out software updates automatically, so a Chrome OS device should always be pretty much up to date. And most of your data is stored on Google’s servers, so you can close (or smash) one Chromebook, open a second one, login, and pick up where you left off.
So rentals seem like a kind of funny idea. Part of the advantage of leasing a car instead of buying it outright is that when your lease is up, you’re not stuck with an outdated car. You just sign a new contract and start driving something new. But in many ways, a Chromebook should always be up to date.
But Google is targeting businesses and other institutions that might be attracted to the no-commitment aspect of its program. Hiring temporary employees for the summer? Just rent a few Chromebooks for a few months and send them back when you don’t need them anymore.
The Chrome OS hardware rental program isn’t really targeted at mainstream users. Google is going after the enterprise market here, and that’s a market for which this sort of thing might make sense. Maybe.