Google Ships First Chrome OS Notebook: CR-48

It took Google right around a full year, but this week, a dream was realized. Google made some pretty big promises last year when talking about a new operating system: Chrome OS. It takes a lot of nerve to willingly tackle both Apple and Microsoft in the OS realm, but Google is definitely big enough to take a swing. After announcing that Chrome OS would at first be limited to specific notebook hardware and would rely heavily on the cloud and remote access, the company didn't say much. A year passed, and we still knew about as much on Chrome OS as we did on the first day.

This week, the CR-48 was born. This is Google's first Chrome OS notebook, and it's being shipped by Google themselves. There's no branding for a manufacturer, and specification details are thin. But what's clear is that Google is going all-in with Chrome OS. The company announced that 3rd-party Chrome OS laptops would ship in the middle of next year from companies such as Samsung and Acer, but for now, this "public beta" pilot machine will have to do.

Google is shipping these out to around 60k lucky users who signed up for a preview, so there's no clear indication of how you could get one otherwise. The spec details we do know are as follows: a 12.1" display (1280x800), a full size keyboard, a black matte textured finish, a matte display, a single, solid clickpad, integrated Gobi 3G for Verizon WWAN access in the States, 802.11n Wi-Fi, a webcam, all Flash storage (no HDD), an Intel Pine Trail processor and a battery good for 8+ hours. Other specifications include a VGA output, a 3G SIM card slot (for international roaming), and an SD card slot.

Also, Google is shipping each of these with 100MB of Verizon data per month, for free! It's a groundbreaking feat to convince a carrier to offer data for free like this, but with an OS so closely linked to the cloud, it only makes sense. Users will need that always-on connection to keep tabs on their Google Docs and Gmail.

Overall, the CR-48 looks like a very interesting machine. You can't buy them, so there's no pricing. They're just being given away by Google as a public pilot test. The design is also highly interesting; it's totally black, from top to bottom, with no logos at all. It's simple, in a good way. We like the under-stated approach. It's hard to say if this is the final Chrome OS notebook we'll see before the middle of 2011, but we hope not. But then again, given just how long Gmail remained in Beta, there's a good chance this Beta test could also last half a year. We shall see!