When Google recently shared its progress and plans for the Chrome OS, one tidbit left out was the names of hardware partners. We now know one of them, and it’s no surprise to me that Acer has stepped forward. The company told DigiTimes that it plans to offer the first Chrome OS netbook in the second half of 2010. Why isn’t this shocking? Early this year, Acer was the first top-tier hardware company to adopt an Android strategy with netbooks. That effort was an on-again, off-again affair, but in the end, Acer did bring a product to the table. The netbook changed from an Android-only device into a basic XP netbook that first boots into Android, but the objective was met. I didn’t see much merit in it at the time, and I’m not hearing about any sales records for the device, either. But now I’m at a crossroads for where Google fits in the netbook space, even if Acer isn’t.
Chrome OS is a browser for web apps. There won’t be any application installs within the operating system. Android, on the other hand, offers apps and the web. It’s geared for a smaller screen with touch. While Chrome OS will run on x86 devices, it will also support ARM-powered units. Now Acer hasn’t announced what hardware platform its Chrome OS netbook will run on, but when it says “netbook,” I immediately think of x86, which might be overkill for nothing but a browser. My hope is that by “netbook,” Acer means an ARM-powered smartbook in a clamshell form-factor with a touch-type keyboard. If instead, it means a traditional x86 netbook costing around $300, it’s going to be a tough sell when the same money buys you both a browser and application experience, no?