Google ( GOOG) should have Googled "netbook" before it took the big plunge into Chromebook.
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) 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) 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.