The day Google demoed Chrome OS for the first time, Brad and I had an interesting back-and-forth discussion about it. One of the things I was curious about was whether or not Google might offer Chrome OS hardware at heavily subsidized prices – or even free.

Over at Linux Journal, Glyn Moody wonders the same thing. Moody points out that hardware costs for Chrome OS netbooks will be minimal, due in no small part to Chrome’s light requirements. An 8GB SSD, 1 or 2GB of DDR2 memory, and an ARM processor will be plenty. And since we know a standard netbook with Windows can retail for as little as $190 brand new, it’s not hard to see that Google could very well plan on giving away Chromebooks.

Why would they?

Let’s not forget what Google’s core business is: advertising. However innovative and exciting the new software Google develops is, the tie-in to their AdSense platform is never too far below the surface. The same is true with Chrome OS, where Google will have a captive audience of users running their browser and using their services. It’s win, win, win for Big G.

Moody wonders if you’d be willing to put up with Google’s advertising agenda in exchange for a Chromebook. I’m willing to bet that thousands – if not millions – of Americans would gladly say yes to a free or dirt cheap secondary / web surfing laptop. Next stop, the world – and advertising Nirvana for Google.

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Lee Mathews

Computer tech, blogger, husband, father, and avid MSI U100 user.

14 replies on “Will Google heavily subsidize or give away free Chrome netbooks?”

  1. It’s only a matter of time before Google gets their fingers in too many pies. Conflict of interest anyone? People think Microsoft is bad? Welcome to the new M$. Google. Sometimes bad comes out of too much good. I just don’t see how the various levels of government and monopoly/competition laws can turn a blind eye over the next year or two. Google is branching of into so many elements it’s almost getting a bit scary.

  2. Considering what Google is losing or was losing on YouTube, I wouldn’t put this past them! It’s a very, very, very smart analysis and probably a correct one at that! I didn’t see it this way… It’s apparent now that Google really wasn’t joking with their OS strategy! Ha! And I’m now more excited than ever about the new OS!

    Outside of serious privacy reservations with respect to Google’s Chrome OS (why else would any one shun or show outright contempt for the hard drive?), I’m all for the product making a massive splash in the world of computing — i.e. to keep those dirty bastards at Microsoft, Intel, and Apple in check. And it seems like it is going to do just that! This one is really going to hurt the Big Three — I know it. I can just feel it!

    But Chrome OS doesn’t seem to be for me though, at this point, as I pirate nearly every thing Windows and have a ripped collection [of apps, pdfs, music, documentaries, tv shows, vidz, etc.] of over 10TB. But the potential for something huge (cough, Wine) is right there at the door step, I think. Linux is back with a vengeance!

    Also, the light Chrome specs — cheers ARM! — combined with some sort of simple wireless hard drive connection (i.e. wifi, server, wireless usb, bluetooth, etc.) seem to equate to an almost unstoppable combo — esp. in regards to battery life and price. Microsoft doesn’t seem prepared at all for this. And I didn’t see it coming either! It flips their business model upside down on it’s head! Because we all know that it is in Microsoft/Intel’s/and esp. Apple’s interest to sell you their products for as much money as possible and now though, it seems, it is in Google’s interest to get you equivalent hardware as quickly and as cheaply as possible — damn! What a nice reverse in the right direction!

    We’re talking intentionally gutted, affordable laptops with 30 or 40-hour battery life — connected either to the internet or to a simple offline server! Whoa! …and delivering a full computing experience at that!??!? One that has already been, hands-on, reported to be blazing fast? Am I dreaming?

    Haha! Google may very well deliver a knockout blow in the OS world. And we all should just love Linux even more because of it — since Linux is now, more than ever, poised to become the next Firefox — albeit in Google’s form! This could be huge for developing countries — if Google really does end up subsidizing naked computer hardware in some form!

    With such a strategy (i.e. one that is not instrinsically bent on artificially inflating hardware prices), I could very easily see Google taking over the developing world market with subsidized laptops for $50 a unit — all for the sake of advertising and name recognition! lol How ironic! What these corporations will do to save their own arse is just ridiculous! Right now telecommunication companies are getting away selling $200 netbooks with 2-year contracts — and people are taking the bait! Google seems to have a different approach! I’m all for it!

    Microsoft has great reason to worry! And, given Google’s massive pull, Chrome is highly unlikely to fail!

  3. I think somebody’s been having too much eggnog.

    Hey, while they’re at it, may be Google will give away free Android 2.0 smartphones as well. May be they’ll buy out one of the carriers and give away unlimited bandwidth for free. Talk as long and download as much as you want! It’s all paid for by advertising! And for sure they’ll have a captive audience, as I certainly will cite my Google God litany and palm the rosary for hot geek freebies!

    Right. If this piece originate from some Linux geek, no wonder Linux has been suffering all this time. Otherwise, a lame attempt for space filler.

  4. All I know is that hackers and tweakers will be looking at these very cheap or free machines for opportunities to turn them into proper netbooks. Just take the Chrome SSD out and fit whatever suits you or whatever can be fitted at least. Do netbooks with smallish SSDs have space for a proper Hard-Drive? Can Google efficiently limit an Aspire One they would give for free – for instance – so that it can’t be modified?

  5. If computers can be made free, how much longer will it take to make small homes and trailers free w/ advertising?

    1. Yeah, except the cost of netbooks are dirt cheap because their parts are now dirt cheap to acquire and assemble. $190 to guarantee that relevant ads end up in front of users may be worth it. To make spending up to 100k (being conservative here) for a small house or trailer viable would require every single surface inside and out to be covered with changeable advertisement which would require a lot of displays. Since its stationary it would have to either A. be located in a highly visible place for people to see it or B. It would have to be mobile at least 50% of the time. That adds the cost of fuel and display technology to the price tag of the home. In short not feasable.

  6. I don’t think in these less than happy finical times that will happen, but in better economic times it very well might.ANYTHING except windows for me.(ALMOST)Sure I would use a free netbook until the point of where the adverting becomes becomes apparent. Then I would go back to my own. That has already been tried with the free desktops years ago and did not succeed then, I don’t it would now unless the spying on you was less obtrusive.

  7. I totally agree – Google wants to see us all in the Cloud as soon as possible, and spending couple of hundreds of million $ is definitely worth to them – as they could get those money back like 10 times in 2-3 years after..

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