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The Chromebooks are coming! New models due late 2013

Will battle head to head with Android notebooks

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While sales of Windows PCs and notebooks continue to disappoint, Acer, Asus, and other hardware makers are readying a new volley of Chromebooks to launch in the second half of 2013, sources close to the companies' Asia-based supply chains claim.

According to a report in Taiwanese tech pub DigiTimes, the new push will be accompanied by a marketing campaign from Google, which is expected to "aggressively promote" the platform in the coming months.

The online giant sparked fresh interest in Chrome OS devices in February when it unveiled the Chromebook Pixel, an own-branded model that shipped with an Intel 1.8GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and either 32 or 64GB of solid state storage - 1TB of Google Drive space included - and an ultra-high resolution 2560-by-1700 pixel touchscreen.

There's little to suggest that this will be the route taken by the other hardware makers, however, which so far have confined their Chromebook efforts to low-end models at cheap prices.

The king of the rock-bottom Chromebooks so far has been Acer, which undercut the competition late last year with a Celeron-powered model that featured a 320GB hard drive for just $199.

According to DigiTimes' sources, that strategy was successful at first, with Acer moving between 150,000 and 200,000 units per month. But by January 2013, shipments had plummeted to between 20,000 and 30,000 units, prompting Acer to rethink its approach.

Sources claim Acer now plans to introduce a new 11.6-inch model in July – the same screen size as its previous offering – targeted specifically at students.

That strategy has been tried by other Chromebook makers before, most notably Lenovo, which debuted its ThinkPad X131e Chromebook for the education market in January.

In support of such efforts, Google offers a special Chrome OS package tailored especially for students and educators through its Google in Education program.

Meanwhile, sources claim that Asus, which initially pooh-poohed the idea of producing a Chromebook, will become the latest vendor to market a Chrome OS device, also in the second half of 2013. No screen size or hardware details for the Asus device were disclosed, but the Taiwanese vendor is unlikely to try to match the Pixel's high-end specs. It also isn't clear whether Asus plans to aim its device at education or the mass market.

HP, Lenovo, and Samsung are all also reportedly readying new Chromebook models, but details on these are even sketchier, with only "near future" release dates promised.

This latest Chrome OS news comes just as many of these same PC makers are reportedly readying a raft of low-end notebook models running the Chocolate Factory's Android OS.

When original Android daddy Andy Rubin stepped down from his position at Google in March, there was much speculation that new honcho Sundar Pichai, who also heads the Chrome OS group, would work to merge Google's two OS efforts into a single product. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt dismissed such gossip, however, telling Reuters that while Android and Chrome OS "could have more overlap," the two would remain separate.

If that's true, and DigiTimes' sources are correct, then not only will Android and Chrome OS remain separate, but they will in fact compete head to head in a market in which consumers are already confronted with a dizzying array of options from which to choose.

Your Reg hack strongly suspects that someone – or some few – will emerge bloodied once the dust clears in this skirmish. But one way or the other, it won't be Google. ®

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