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Thursday, February 21, 2013, 12:59 pm PT (03:59 pm ET)

Google steps further into the hardware fray, announces touchscreen Chromebook Pixel

Google on Thursday took another step beyond its search engine beginnings, launching a new, Chrome OS-powered notebook that manages to step on both Microsoft's and Apple's turf.



The Chromebook Pixel was initially thought to be an elaborate hoax when a supposed promotional video showing off the device hit the Internet earlier in February. Yet Thursday brought a surprise announcement from the search giant that the first Google-designed and built notebook was in fact real and launching this year.

The Pixel will run Chrome OS, Google's own lightweight, browser-based operating system. The use of Chrome — which Google is expected to begin converging with its Android mobile OS — will mean a heavy focus on cloud storage and cloud services for Pixel owners, as the OS runs web apps almost exclusively. Reporting further on Google's announcement, Engadget confirmed that all Chromebook Pixels will ship with Quickoffice already installed. They will also have the ability to open and edit office documents natively within the Chrome browser.

Pixel


The Pixel sports a 12.9-inch LCD display with touchscreen capability, putting it into competition with Microsoft and its partners' touch-centric Windows 8 devices. At the same time, that touch display sports what Google says is the "highest pixel density... of any laptop screen on the market today." With 4.3 million pixels in total, the 2560x1700 display on Google's new notebook has a pixel density of 239ppi. By comparison, Apple's 15-inch and 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros have 220ppi and 227ppi densities, respectively.

The new notebook has two USB 2.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort, and an SD card reader. Inside, the Pixel has a a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, and a 59WHr battery, which Google says will power the device for five hours.

Chromebook


The Chromebook Pixel will come in two builds: one with a 32GB SSD and another with a 64GB SSD. The 32GB model will have Wi-Fi connectivity only, while the 64GB model will have Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity. Purchase of either model will include 1TB of Google Drive cloud storage for three years. The 32GB unit will retail for $1,299, while the 64GB model will sell for $1,449.

The Chromebook Pixel is just the latest step by Google in what appears to be a larger quest to establish itself as a hardware company, in addition to its search engine, mobile OS, and Internet service provision activities. Google has already purchased Motorola, which it will use to attack the hardware segment from the mobile end, and the Pixel appears to attack it from the traditional computing end.

Recent days have also seen the reemergence of rumors that Google is preparing to open its own line of retail outlets, where customers could try out products such as the Chromebook Pixel before buying. Google would join, of course, Apple, but also Microsoft and Google partner/rival Samsung in relying on its own retail outlets to move its wares.