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Google's 12.1-inch Cr-48 Chrome OS netbook was used by internal, corporate, and public beta testers.   (Source: Linux Devices)
Will be offered to students first, enterprise offering likely to follow

Late last year, Google put out a call to participants to sign up to become beta testers of free notebooks that ran its fledgling Chrome OS (not to be confused with the Chrome browser). With an expected mid-2011 launch, the company said it was working out a few kinks. 

Reports now say Google is preparing to announce a game-changing price point tomorrow regarding its Chrome notebooks.

According to Forbes, Google will announce a $20-a-month package for students that includes both the hardware and internet access, in what "is almost certainly a precursor to an enterprise offering." 

"Small and medium-sized businesses are banging on our doors to get something like this," the unnamed Google executive and source of the story said. 

Google currently offers businesses a Cloud-based suite of software similar to Microsoft Office for $50 a year. Forbes posits that a laptop could be added to the deal rather cheaply, in the same way that a cell phone comes at a discount when tied to a calling plan. 

And students are the best guinea pigs in this case. Twenty dollars a month is less than a data plan from any of the major carriers. Testing the product on students also builds in demand as they graduate and join the workforce. 

Another aspect where the Cloud-based productivity suite appeals to business is control. Employers can better control where its employees can go online and how they use and access internal data. 

The Google executive said the company is very close to solving the problem of working offline, in cases where there is temporarily no web access. That appears to be the Chrome laptops' biggest hurdle.

Updated 5/11/2011

Google just announced that the ChromeBooks will be available to students for $20/month and to businesses at $28/month. The price will include enterprise-level support and "regular hardware refreshes". Google is a little fuzzy on specifics, but it mentions in a separate article that 3G models will come with 100MB of free internet access. 





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