Google and Intel introduced three new Chromebooks and a Chromebox today, each running Intel's powerful Haswell processors. The announcement came onstage at Wednesday's Intel Developer Forum keynote in San Francisco, as Intel VP Doug Fisher and Sundar Pichai, the head of Google's Android and Chrome divisions, showed off the new hardware. Fisher and Pichai revealed two new laptops from existing Chrome hardware partners, HP and Acer, and a Chromebook from Toshiba, and a Chromebox from Asus. These devices mark Asus and Toshiba's first foray into Chrome OS hardware. Fisher promised battery life improvements of up to 50 percent and performance jumps as high as 15 percent for Haswell Chrome devices over their previous generation chipsets.
But while both Google and Intel were happy to announce the four new devices on Wednesday, neither company offered up hardware, pricing, or firm release details — Google says the hardware will go on sale in the coming months. Still, the
A step up from Atom and ARM move to Haswell is a step up for Chrome devices. Up to this point, Chromebooks have been strictly low-cost laptops — outside of Google's flagship Pixel of course. Part of what's kept prices down has been the use of cheaper processors such as Intel's Atom chips, known for their ubiquity in netbooks, or ARM processors, the likes of which are used in tablets. In addition, most Chromebooks thus far have used lower resolution displays and inexpensive plastic bodies.
When Google introduced the Pixel last year, it touted its touch-screen equipped creation as something akin to a concept car — a device that showed what a Chromebook could be if hardware makers stepped up and used top-of-the-line components. While we don't know much about this next wave of Chrome hardware aside from the fact that it will utilize the Haswell chipset, the fact that these devices are even running on the latest Intel has to offer seems to be a sign that the Pixel is starting to show some influence.
The promise of better apps and hardware Additionally, Google is in the midst of an ongoing push for apps that can help build Chrome OS into a legitimate desktop operating system — one that can compete directly with Windows and OS X. Depending on the level of performance and polish, these four devices (and whatever follows) could serve as a compliment to Google's efforts to mature on the Chrome software side. Back when Chrome OS was just a browser and nothing more, bargain basement hardware wasn't a problem and, in fact, preferred. But if Chrome OS is going to grow up and truly take on Microsoft and Apple, it'll need both better apps and better hardware.
While Google does have a chicken and egg problem here, it is actively taking steps to solve this issue and the addition of Haswell Chromebooks and boxes is the latest step. Chrome apps are getting better, and Haswell Chrome devices hold a ton of promise. Once this new, more powerful hardware actually arrives, we'll get to see if it can live up to Intel's hype and Google's aspirations.
Additional reporting by Sean Hollister