Google is introducing its cheapest Chromebooks yet, the $149 Hisense Chromebook and the Haier Chromebook 11. On Tuesday, the search giant also teased a dongle, dubbed the Chromebit, which—for still less money—will bring the Web-browser-centric Chrome OS to any TV or monitor with an HDMI input.
These new Chromebooks, available for pre-order Tuesday and set to ship in April, run on quad-core ARM processors from Chinese semiconductor company Rockchip, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of local storage. Both devices will have one HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, and a MicroSD card slot. And both computers will feature 11.6-inch, 1,366×768 pixel displays.
The specs on these machines aren’t going to wow anyone, as the new $1,000 Chromebook Pixel might. But they’re sufficient for surfing the Web and lightweight work—and that’s the point. These are low-cost computers targeted for schools and emerging markets such as China and India.
This is consistent with Google’s Chrome OS strategy of embracing low-margin products, because it doesn’t have to charge its hardware partners anything for its OS, making money instead on acquiring new Google users. This has become a substantial threat to the Windows OS, which of course is a source of licensing revenue for Microsoft .
Previously, the cheapest Chromebook you could buy was a $200 model from Acer. (There’s a $200 Windows laptop, too.) Hisense and Haier aren’t well known brands in the U.S., but the companies are hugely successful electronics makers in their home market of China, now seeking greater visibility in America.
The major differences between these two new cheapest Chromebooks are seen in hardware styling and battery life. The black Hisense Chromebook will offer about 8.5 hours of battery life and the white Haier Chromebook 11 promises 10 hours of battery life.
In the coming months, getting Chrome OS will be even cheaper, but you’ll need your own monitor, mouse and keyboard. This summer, Google said it will launch a new computer-in-a-stick called the Chromebit. The device, which is a small dongle that plugs into a TV or computer monitor’s HDMI port sort of like the popular Chromecast TV streamer, will run full Chrome OS and sell for less than $100. (The actual price is undetermined at this point.) The Chromebit, a little smaller in size than a standard candy bar, will be built by Asus, Google said in a statement.
Google also announced that more laptops, ranging from $200 to $500 will roll out over the next few months as well, from companies including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo and LG. The $250 Asus Chromebook Flip, a computer with a touch display that can turn and swivel around to be used in a more tablet-like style, is also expected. Though its release date isn’t yet announced, a Google spokeswoman said it should go on sale in the next couple of months.