Dell brings Google's Chrome OS to desktops

Dell will ship the $179 Chromebox and $999 Chromebox for Meetings this month

Dell's Chromebox for Meetings (1)

Dell's Chromebox for Meetings (1)

Dell will ship its first desktops with Google's Chrome operating system this month.

The company's two Chromebox desktops are small, almost identical in features and can be easily held in one hand. Both rely on Internet services and apps provided through the Chrome OS, but have different usage models.

At US$179, the Dell Chromebox is a low-cost Chrome OS desktop alternative to Chromebook laptops, and the $999 Chromebox for Meetings is a "video-conferencing solution out of the box," said Kelli Hodges, brand experience manager at Dell.

"If someone wants to have that desktop-like experience but enjoys Chrome, they can have that through Chromebox," Hodges said.The computer can be configured with Intel's Celeron or Core i3 processors, which are also used in Chromebooks. The desktop will ship Sept. 26 through Dell's website and sales channels, though the company didn't specify countries in which it would be available. Similar desktops offered by Acer and Asus are also priced at about $179.

Chromebox for Meetings, which will ship this week, is a souped-up version of the low-cost Chromebox with a Core i7 processor and a version of the Chrome OS for video conferencing.

"It's using the Google Hangout technology to bring individuals together in a video conference," Hodges said.The video-conferencing box can hook up to high-definition TVs and monitors, and up to 15 people can log into a group meeting. Attendees can log in through smartphones, tablets and PCs. A back-end management console can create meetings, invite participants and give users privileges to create or join meetingsA remote control that ships with the box has a mini-QWERTY keyboard and can be used to add users to meetings or to mute participants.

Each of the desktop models has 16GB solid-state drive, Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, four USB 3.0 ports and HDMI and DisplayPort display ports. Chromebox for Meetings has an additional 1080p webcam.

PCs with the Chrome OS are gaining in popularity. Chromebooks accounted for 35 percent of all commercial laptop shipments in the U.S. as of mid-July, a 250 percent jump from the same period last year, according to NPD. Chromebooks accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of overall consumer laptop shipments during the same period, NPD said.

Dell already offers Chromebook 11, which has sold so well that the company had to halt online sales to fulfill back orders.

The Chromebox desktops are part of Dell's larger set of PC announcements and Intel is expected to show some of those computers at a keynote during the IFA show in Berlin this week.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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