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First Chromebooks available for pre-order

Chromebooks (Acer Cromia Samsung Series 5)

Electronics retailers Amazon.com and Best Buy are now taking pre-orders for the first two Chromebooks, lightweight notebook computers running Google’s cloud-dependent Chrome OS. The units, announced last month at Google IO, are made by Acer and Samsung, and represent Google’s first effort in the desktop operating system market. The notebooks rely on Internet connectivity to connect to Web-based apps and storage, and Chrome OS is based on bringing a simplified, browser-based experience to users: there’s no real way to access the file system, and right now users are limited to only a handful of apps. But Google’s hope is that by providing streamlined, simplified access to cloud-based applications and services, Chromebooks will be a hit with consumers looking for an inexpensive computing option—and the ability to access their data anywhere they can get an Internet connection.

Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook features is powered by an Intel Atom processor and sports a 12.1-inch 1,280 by 800-pixel display, 2 GB of RAM, WiFi, mini-VGA video output, an oversized trackpad, along with two USB 2.0 ports and a 4-in-1 media card reader—Samsung says the systems will get up to 8.5 hours of battery life on a single charge. Acer’s Cromia Chromebook is also built on an Intel Atom processor features an 11.6-inch display, HD webcam, Wi-Fi, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI output a 4-in-1 media card reader, and a full-sized keyboard: the unit also promises an 8-second boot time. Both units are available with 3G options.

The Acer Cromia starts at $380, and jumps to $450 for a version with 3G connectivity. The Samsung Series 5 starts at $430 and jumps to $500 for the 3G-capable model.

So far, reaction to the Chromebooks has generally been skeptical: although some industry watchers like the simplicity of Chrome and the idea of inexpensive cloud-dependent systems, some note the Chromebooks current pricing is too similar to that of existing netbook and tablet systems on the market—and those netbooks and tablets are generally much more flexible than Chrome. Nonetheless, the Chromebooks represent Google’s first effort to bring Chrome OS to the masses, and the company claims to have learned a great deal from its Cr-48 pilot notebooks.

The Chromebooks should be available for general sale June 15.