Seemingly unaware of the short, tragic history of the cheap, underpowered mini-notebook category, Google now holds up its breakthrough invention in personal computing: the Chromebook -- a cheap, underpowered mini-notebook with a three-year contract.
Google says it will sell the Asus and Samsung Chromebooks starting at $379, with a WiFi cloud-connection fee of $28 a month for business users and $20 for students. Business users and students will also have to sign on to three-year contracts.
Google's timing couldn't be more perfect. Not only have people run in horror away from netbooks, they've embraced a new type of device in the low-end niche -- the tablet, or Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iPad, to be specific.And while netbooks had their rampant shortcomings, Google has managed to take the trend a whole lot further. Unlike the netbooks of a few years ago that had an operating system people were familiar with, Google is asking people to sever their lifelong ties to Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) Windows by pushing a new Chrome operating system tethered to the cloud. Google's Chromebook has a much better chance with new users, drenched with broadband access and already comfortable with the cloud and its Facebook, Netflix (NFLX) and Slacker Radio. This also happens to be same group that's buying smartphones and iPads. Good luck Google.