Google Chrome OS, as used on the Chromebook and Chromebox platforms, is Google's other mobile device operating system. Chrome OS is essentially the Google Chrome browser running over a lightweight and simple LINUX base. The operating system contains a very basic set of tools designed to run the web browser and the majority of work is done within the browser. Many Chromebooks ship with a 11.6-inch low resolution display panel, a relatively low end Intel x64 processor (which runs in 32-bit mode), 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of local storage, WiFi, Bluetooth and a keyboard. Most models come with a few physical ports such as a HDMI and USB, a memory card slot of some description and a relatively small internal battery. Some models have higher end features such as a more powerful processor, 4 GB of RAM, more internal storage or a higher resolution display – but because Chrome OS runs well on low end hardware, and has a simple operating system, it is typically sold on an inexpensive laptop. But because the Chromebook and Chrome OS platform has access to the Google suite of applications and services, for some customers the Chromebook is a perfect low cost computing device. The Chromebook is almost maintenance free; the device may be cleaned by the "powerwash" command, to remove browser extensions and similar, but all data is backed up to the user's Google account.
The simplicity and elegance of the platform is not lost on the education system, where in North America, many districts insist on students having a computer (or a tablet with a keyboard) for their studies. Those districts that have used the Apple iPad are typically paying almost twice as much for the basic iPad and keyboard combination as compared with an entry level Chromebook. For a school with hundreds or thousands of students, saving $150 or more per student is a tempting device. And news today that there are now more Chromebooks in US schools compared with any other device combined is great for Google and the Chromebook manufacturers: Google has only recently started to push the Chrome OS platform for either enterprise or education customers. The moral of this story is that there appears to be more to come from the Chromebook story.
The Chromebook market is not so similar to the smartphone market, because when a Chromebook is released, Google promises to deliver support (in the form of software updates) for five years. Most Chromebook customers do not upgrade their Chromebook every one or two years; Google Nexus devices running pure Google Android receive the same promise for just two years, and original equipment manufacturers vary in their support timescales. Google's Sundar Pichai today announced that each and every day, an average of 30,000 Chromebooks are activated and the overwhelming majority of these sales are to new customers.