Chrome netbook specs stretch believability

Google's plans for its mobile OS are again the subject of illogical speculation.

Interest in Google's Chrome OS is heating up with the emergence of new rumors about specs for an upcoming netbook. The device would supposedly have a 10.1 TFT HD-ready multitouch display; 2GB RAM; and WiFi, Bluetooth, and 3G connectivity. As if that wasn't enough, this netbook would also have a 64GB solid-state drive, according to IBTimes (more on that source in a minute). By the sound of it, the Chrome OS netbook sounds like a great device, but there's only one problem: in my view these rumors aren't very believable.

The Fine Print

These latest rumors come courtesy of a little known UK-based publication called IBTimes. The article doesn't cite any sources, but says, "tech bloggers have already begun speculating about the netbook's specs." Then when it comes time to deliver the specs, IBTimes says, "The Google netbook, it is reported...". In other words, IBTimes is probably just reporting rumors picked up from other bloggers — but it doesn't even tell the source of those rumors.

Another little tidbit that stretched credulity for me was this quote: "The netbook... will reportedly also come with preinstalled Google apps such as Google Map, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calender, and Google Search by Voice."

First of all it's Google Maps, not Google Map; second, it's Google Calendar, not Calender; and third, with the exception of Google Search by Voice, all of these are Web-based applications that cannot be preinstalled as the writer suggests. Most of these Web apps will be bookmarked in the Chrome OS, but I don't think that counts as preinstalled apps, do you?

Breaking Down the Rumors

The report says the Google-branded Chrome OS netbook would run on an NVIDIA Tegra platform with an ARM CPU. This is nothing new, and matches reports from earlier this month. The 10.1-inch screen makes sense since this device is going to be a netbook, but Google did say it wants to make slightly larger netbooks for Chrome OS. The rumor about 3G connectivity is also believable since any device running Google Chrome OS needs the Internet to function properly.

IBTimes is also saying that the Google netbook would be sold directly through Google — something Google is also rumored to do with the supposed Google Phone, the Nexus One. The price tag would be under $300, and IBTimes says the device would be the subsidized price as part of a 3G bundle available from one or multiple carriers. But why would a subsidized netbook only be sold through Google instead of its 3G carrier partner's retail stores and big box outlets like Best Buy and Wal-Mart? It's also worth noting that Google said at the Chrome OS unveiling in November that Chrome OS devices would cost about the same as netbooks do today. If that's true, why subsidise the device at all?

But the biggest sticking point for me is the rumored 64GB SSD. That's a lot of storage space for a Web-centric device that is supposed to encourage you to keep all your information in the cloud. Based on what we know about Google Chrome OS, there's simply no reason for a hard drive that big and it would only drive up the overall cost of the device.

Google may be coming out with its own Google-branded netbook to compete directly with other Chrome OS partners like Acer, ASUS, and Hewlett-Packard, but I wouldn't bet on these specs just yet.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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