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Google to rent Chromebooks for $30 per month

Well, it can't just give them away, can it?

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Google must have a lot of unsold Chrome OS devices lying around, because it has launched an unusual new scheme to get them into customers' hands. Beginning on Wednesday, customers can rent the boot-to-browser machines on a month-to-month basis for as long as three years or as little as a single month.

According to a blog post by Google product manager Divya Agarwalla, the new program is aimed primarily at business customers, including companies with seasonal workers or startups who want to conserve their cash.

"Imagine you're setting up shop for a local political campaign and will have an influx of new, temporary workers," Agarwalla writes. "You can rent a Chromebook for each worker for the next few months, and return them when the campaign is over."

The cost to rent a Chromebook laptop starts at $30 per month, while a Chromebox desktop unit can be had for as little as $25 per month. After the first 12 months, however, the rates decrease. During the second year, the cost is $25 for the Chromebook and $22 for the Chromebook, while in the third year the prices are $20 and $18, respectively. Customers are free to cancel at any time.

Each Chromebook or Chromebox rental includes the hardware, a three-year warranty, the web-based management console that allows admins to centrally setup and control the devices, and a 24/7 support contract.

Agarwalla says Google has developed the rental program in conjunction with CIT, a financing partner. Potential customers are required to submit a credit application before they can enroll in the program, and CIT isn't extending credit beyond a maximum of 25 Chromebooks.

According to the main Chromebook website, the rental program is a "limited time offer", though the Chocolate Factory has not specified when it might end.

It's hard to see customers beating down Google's door to enroll in the program, though. The online ad giant hasn't released sales figures for its browser-in-a-box devices, but by all estimates they have been pitifully low.

And even if the monthly rental prices do sound enticing at first, customers may be less thrilled when they realize that at these rates, they will have paid fees equivalent to the full retail cost of their Chromebooks in fewer than 24 months.  ®

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