Google unveiled an interesting new model for distributing computers and software today with the announcement of Chromebooks for Business and Education. The idea is that you pay $20 per month (student price) or $28 per month per user (business price) and get a laptop for no up-front cost, and the latest software updates for the life of the product. If the product becomes obsolete while you’re paying. Google will even upgrade it for you.

That all sounds great… but it turns out things aren’t that simple. Engadget uncovered some additional details, and it turns out that you’ll need to sign up for a 3-year commitment before Google will send you a laptop.

It also turns out that the Chromebooks for Business program requires a minimum order of 10 laptops. And if you want a 3G capable Chromebook you’ll need to pay an extra $3 per month, bringing the price for students to $23 per month and the price for businesses to $31 per month.

Sure, for just a few dollars per month you get the cheapest 3G data plan available in the US, with 100MB of bandwidth each month supplied by Verizon. But you’ll probably use that up the first time you actually try to use the laptop away from a WiFi hotspot.

Then there’s the question of whether you actually want a notebook that only runs a web browser in the first place. After all, there’s very little that a Chromebook can do that a Windows, Mac, or Linux notebook couldn’t do just as well. After all, you can run versions of the Chrome (or Chromium) web browser on each of those platforms. Sure, you might not get the 10 second boot time, but when it comes right down to it, the Acer and Samsung Chromebooks are just laptops with Intel Atom processors. They could run any number of operating systems.

While I think the $349 starting price to buy a WiFi Acer Chromebook outright is fair, since you get a nice big screen, a full sized keyboard, an Atom N570 processor, and a 16GB solid state disk (which I’m assuming is reasonably fast), I’m not sure I’d want to pay $20 per month for the next three years to use that laptop, bringing the total cost to $720. And that’s for the cheapest possible option.

If you opt for the business plan with 3G access, you could end up paying $1116 per laptop over the course of a three year contract — bringing the total to $11,160 for 10 laptops.

Fortunately, I don’ t have to make this decision, because I’m not a student and I’m not in a position to order 10 laptops for my business. But I can’t help but wonder… if Google did offer the general public a chance to rent Chromebooks instead of buying them outright, would you do it under these conditions?


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16 replies on “Would you rent a Chromebook for $20 per month?”

  1. Where is the Pixel Qi Screen (sure wish they had one for all sizes of screens). But, anything mobile, needs direct sunlight use feature for our future mobile uses.

  2. Educational institutions are probably the biggest IT market in the world. With this plan, a small part of the tax dollars, tuition or PTA income can be used to assure every student has a new laptop; and the school has a way of getting rid of them at the end of the lease. If these are “$1 buyout leases” they’re ideal; especially if all-risk insurance is included.

  3. I wouldn’t even make use of a Chromebook if Google paid me $20 per month. I have no problem manage my own rights and responsibilities. As a child, I struggled, but as an adult, I’m better now. As such, I neither need nor want Google involved in my computing lifestyle, not even if doing so became a source of revenue for me.

    Just fo put Debian on an ARM-based “netbook” already and be done with it. People were doing this years ago.

  4. Nope, Obumba will give them away to everyone with your taxes to “no illegal immigrant child is without a computer” program gets him re-elected.

    I’ll just wait for my free one, thanks US taxpayers!

  5. What is compelling about no name brands that are at the food market? At least you know what’s inside. My point is, wtf is Chrome OS? Who cares about Chrome OS? A premium netbook that comes with an OS that nobody knows about. It has no name. No track record. And I’m going to put money down to get one? I gave up drugs years ago. Google should do the same.

  6. ultraportable, USB car charger port, SSD, long battery life, fast OS will be the main stream. Not the monthly charge. I expect other OS and new product will flood to the market with no monthly fee.

    1. Wow… the monthly fee is so you dn’t have to pay for the device upfront… get a brain

  7. Better get a netbook, which does all a chromebook does, much more & cheaper

    1. ChromeOS’ value proposition is more compelling for the institutions (business, academia) since the maintenance/update cost tends to be the major portion of TCO, and CrOS negates that to a large degree. This doesn’t apply to consumers, which, as said, would find better bang-per-buck in existing standalone solutions.

      The real question is whether CrOS will make enough inroads with the biz/academ markets to attain critical mass, i.e. attracting enough web-based apps to make the platform a viable solution for the mainstream, outside of said niche markets. Given the momentum of tablets with their respective mobile OS’es (iOS, Android, WebOS, etc), it’s safe to say that CrOS is a long shot.

  8. You can’t actually get it for $20 a month (They’ve released more info).

    The subscription rate is for companies and institutions who order 10 or more at a time. There’s also a 3 year contract.

    Anyway, consumers have to pay retail, dammit. That killed it for me.

      1. The problem is that your question makes no sense in the context of the body content. The piece establishes that “you” means a business or school, yet the question as posed is to readers as individuals, which is irrelevant, since consumers don’t apply (to the subscription rate).

      2. Actually, no. I read the blurb in the RSS feed and came to comment.

    1. i second that.

      it could have been a killer deal if these laptops were pre-installed with dual systems and stayed at the same cost rate.. but i dream..

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