Does the Chromebox Have a Market?

Google is set to co-launch the Chromebook, a new category of computing, alongside Samsung and Acer this month. To recap for anyone who hasn’t already seen our coverage, a Chromebook is a notebook that runs only Google’s entirely cloud-based OS, Chrome OS. Two models, with WiFi or WiFi + 3G connectivity, will be available internationally on the mid-June release with special business and education programs available to help bulk customers distribute the costs.

However, there was another smaller announcement made during Google’s recent set of presentations – the Chromebox. The Chromebox is a so-called “nettop” that looks and feels like a Mac Mini, but runs the same cloud-based operating system. Naturally, I don’t think anyone sees this as a real desktop alternative, but it might have some indirect potential that could make it a true contender in certain markets.

What Exactly is a Chromebox?

The Chromebox was only really teased at during Google I/O, but was shown nonetheless. The Samsung-branded device looks to be about the size of a Mac Mini, but with a more Apple TV-ish style, if you get what I mean. In fact, you could almost mistake it for a Google TV.

The Chromebox runs the same operating system as the Chromebook, but comes without the same input methods and display that any notebook is so readily supplied with. Naturally, you’ll spend most your time either browsing the web, or using web applications from Google’s own Chrome Web Store, should you dedicate your time to using the OS.

The Samsung Chromebox - Image courtesy of Engadget

The Perfect Education Computer

Google had both the education and business markets in mind when it launched the Chromebook. It’s clear that lightweight computing can be great in certain cases, especially for corporate and education environments who want to avoid IT issues at any cost. Education is a precious thing, and technology is only helping to advance that. However, it’s clear that Windows, especially, can cause significant slowdowns due to issues popping up. When you couple that with low spec machines (it’s rare you find powerhouses of computing in a school with hundreds to thousands of computers), it can lead a horrible experience.

Luckily, the Chromebook is lower spec, but it runs an operating system that’s optimised for it, making it a speedy, secure and efficient machine that’s constantly being updated. The Chromebox should go hand-in-hand with that, and might be a financial benefit to schools who want to upgrade their IT, as you will most likely be able to use any existing display or keyboard/mouse with it.

Google stress the Chromebook as a cheaper alternative even on their marketing website.

Google TV v2?

That is exactly what struck me when I first saw the device. Could this be the real contender for your media centre? Quite possibly.

I don’t know about you, but the majority of the TV I watch is not done on a traditional television. I either stream it, watch it on a video-on-demand site like BBC iPlayer or ignore it, and catch up on my YouTube subscriptions. Therefore, the Chromebox is a perfect machine, for me at least, for video streaming. As long as a machine like this has some sort of HDMI or DVI output, it could turn out to be an attracting proposition for those looking for a new media centre.

Google TV wasn't a massive hit first time round

Final Thoughts

I think that Google’s Chrome OS has a lot of potential, and really want to experience it on a dedicated device myself. Therefore, I reckon the Chromebox might be the perfect device to kick off my experience with the OS, especially with my web-based media habits.

Unfortunately, though, the Chromebox has no release date and has been said to be a business-focused machine, meaning it might not actually make it to consumer market.

Would you use a Chromebox? At work? At school? Let us know in the comments.