Chromebook Subscription Model Aimed At Cost-Conscious Mobile Businesses

We’ve known that Chrome OS notebooks have been on Google’s agenda for a while, but it announced an interesting subscription-based program for businesses and educational institutions Wednesday at Google (NSDQ: GOOG) I/O that could change the way those groups think about deploying mobile computers

Two new Chromebooks will launch on June 15 in the U.S. from Samsung and Acer for around $400, but if organizations interested in the concept don’t want to purchase and manage the machines themselves, they can sign up for a new Google program called Chromebooks for Business and Education. For $28 per user per month ($20 for educational customers) Google will provide a Chromebook, host a Web-based device management service, replace broken hardware, and ensure the devices will work with existing Web-based business applications or provide virtualization software for essential desktop apps.

Large companies have always had IT services contracts with PC vendors, but Google’s proposal could make a lot of sense for smaller organizations, and larger companies might find they can significantly cut their costs by switching to the program. It’s modeled on Google Apps, which allows businesses to access Web-based e-mail and office productivity software rather than pay Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) for licenses to desktop and server software that requires active management.

“The complexity of managing your computers is torturing users and it’s a flawed model, fundamentally,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin in a question-and-answer session with reporters following Google’s keynote.

If successful, the upshot of the program could be that Web developers have more potential users to target, as it could take a while for something as new in concept as Chrome OS to resonate with consumers. Google carefully backed away from calling these devices “netbooks” during its presentations, which makes sense given the big drop in demand for devices that were popular when it first announced the Chrome OS project in 2009.

But Chrome OS has always been pitched as a business-friendly computing platform, and a low-cost subscription model could help spur adoption. More details are available here.