Google has announced a new product, the Asus Chromebit, which is the size of a traditional thumbdrive and can be plugged into any HDMI display (like a monitor or a TV) to turn the device into a fully functional Chromebook.
Like other Chrome OS hardware, it is designed with schools in mind. Peripherals like a keyboard and a mouse can be linked up via USB or Bluetooth. Google promises to price it at less than $100, according to Rachel King at ZDNet.
Chromebooks, which are laptops that perform most tasks via cloud-based apps, are a popular technology option for schools, in part because they are much cheaper than a traditional PC or laptop. They are often used along with Google products like Gmail or the popular storage solution Drive.
Since the work is done online, the Chromebook doesn't need the same hardware as other computers, which cuts the price dramatically. Google uses a special low-wattage chip that doesn't need a fan and can last for hours without charging. According to Katie Roberts-Hoffman on the Google Chrome Blog, they were the best selling laptops on Amazon last holiday season.
The enhanced portability of the Chromebit would allow both students and teachers to easily relocate, eliminating class time-wasters like waiting for a PC to boot up or to install software updates, and allowing students to easily take work home with them. It can also make giving presentations easier by connecting directly to large TVs and dispensing with traditional projectors.
Caesar Sengupta, the vice president of product management for Google, said:
Think of the different use cases. Think of an Internet cafe, where you have a monitor, you have a keyboard, and mouse, [but] you're stuck with an old desktop. It's probably never been updated, pretty insecure. Think of a school lab, all the peripherals, but stuck to a desktop. Now you can replace that.
Recently, along with the introduction of a new model built with students and teachers in mind, the price of new laptop-style Chromebooks has been lowered to $149 from $249. Other upcoming Chrome OS technology, writes Cade Metz of Wired, includes an ultra-thin laptop that can become a touchscreen tablet. Later models, writes Mark Hachman of PC World, will be more rugged and have drainage for keyboard spills.
Other companies including Intel and Dell have products similar to the Chromebit.