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Google Portables Technology

Would You Use a Free Netbook From Google? 435

Posted by timothy
from the google-i-opener dept.
Glyn Moody writes "The response to Google's Chromium OS has been rather lukewarm. But suppose it's just part of something much bigger: a netbook computer from Google that would cost absolutely nothing. Because all the apps and data are stored in the cloud, storage requirements would be minimal; screens are getting cheaper, and the emphasis on lean code means that a low-cost processor could be used. Those relatively small hardware costs could then be covered by advertising in the apps — after all, they are just Web pages. Interestingly, Google has not only rolled out advertising to more of its services recently, it has also started running AdSense ads in the desktop application Google Earth. Would you accept a free Google netbook — or is the price you would pay in terms of the company knowing even more about what you do on an hour-by-hour basis just too high?"
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Would You Use a Free Netbook From Google?

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  • Not possible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:33AM (#30214182) Journal

    As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook. Actually single user is worth a lot less for Google and other companies.

    Lets say Google gets around $2 CPM on normal searches. That means a single search is worth something like $0.002 for Google. It's going to take lots of searches and ad clicks from every user to even cover the costs of the netbook. And the same users would be doing those searches and ad clicks anyway, so it serves no purpose.

    Another thing is that search result advertisements and even ads on gmail are worth more because they can be really targeted. But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

    It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Glyn Moody (946055)
      Yes, but what about a $20 netbook? That's the issue: when hardware costs fall to the point that the numbers work, what happens then?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oldspewey (1303305)
        Then you start to see netbooks in those big centre aisle bins at WalMart under a sign that says "Price Drop! $24.87", and consumers react accordingly when they see service providers offering a similar netbook for free.
      • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Garble Snarky (715674) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:30PM (#30215110)
        If it's THAT cheap, I'll just buy my own. Even if the unsubsidized hardware costs twice that, I'd still rather spend $40 and have the freedom to do what I want with MY hardware.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          On the other hand, if it has ChromeOS installed and I can nuke it and install FreeBSD without violating the conditions of sale, then I'd be happy to pick one up for free, especially if it had an ARM CPU and decent battery life.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        There's never going to be a $20 netbook even if your labor costs were zero.

        • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

          by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:37PM (#30216012)

          There's never going to be a $20 netbook even if your labor costs were zero.

          Just like there will never be $20 cell phones?

          Netbook = Display, keyboard/HID, 802.11, Battery, Microcontroller, plastic frame/shell, AC-DC converter.

          We have already proven that all of those items except for the display can be included in a $20 product. Do you believe that the Display will always keep the cost above $20? With the advent of mobile browsing, many services now revolve around repackaging websites for viewing on smaller screens and requiring less processor overhead. I could see it happening in 5-10 years easily.

          What I'm really waiting for is this:

          Color e-Ink displays at a reasonable cost. THAT is going to usher in a huge change to our mobile landscape. It might not be the $20 model you state is impossible, but it's my prediction.

        • 3G connection, 3g enabled netbook. 20/month.

          25 and Google apps are thrown in.

          Without the netbook, just a sim? 20/month.

           

        • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

          by trenton (53581) <`trentonl' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @02:55PM (#30217024) Homepage
          Just like there will never be a $20 calculator, $20 digital watch, $20 hand-held laser, or $20 digital camera.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by simplu (522692)
          Never? Bill, is it you?
        • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Interesting)

          by xonicx (1009245) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @04:00PM (#30217810)
          May be google netbooks are small servers running on user's electricity and Internet bandwidth to serve other users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slim (1652)

      As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook. Actually single user is worth a lot less for Google and other companies.

      I agree with this, although I think the hardware could be *much* cheaper than $150. Say $50, in time. But still advertising couldn't cover 100% of it.

      But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

      I have a Google Docs spreadsheet right here entitled "Warwick office Christmas Lunch 2009".

      Along with the column headings, there's a good chance Google's systems could guess it's a good place to advertise restaurants and pubs near Warwick.

      How many spreadsheets contain the name of a product, with the price alongside it? That's a signal to advertise that product

      • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by damburger (981828) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#30214778)

        Advertising on the netbook itself could not cover it, perhaps, but remember what Google are trying to do here is break on the desktop; if they make a loss getting their netbooks into peoples homes (and their lives) then they are getting more desktop users by default (because if you are keeping your documents on google docs, then you will still use it when you boot a windows machine). They can make the numbers work if they are banking on increasing their userbase elsewhere.

        If Google can get a large enough userbase on their cloud applications to break the MS Office monopoly, then suddenly the reason 95% of the worlds desktop computers run Windows evaporates.

        I myself don't like cloud computing for office work - I tend to use openoffice. This will still work out well for users like me though; Without an MS monopoly people will become more used to working between different office packages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      I don't think it has to be a $150 netbook. If all you are doing is regular internet surfing sans flash, an OLPC level book should be fine, and that was designed to be $100 years ago (although not quite reaching that level).

      The problem with free is that people won't value it enough to take care of it. They'll just trash it and move onto the next thing. But a $50 or $100 netbook would be huge for customers. Anything else on that level is usually a crappy toy.

      And just like Microsoft counts on people growin

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ClosedSource (238333)

        The fact that OLPC specifically targeted a $100 machine and couldn't achieve it should tell you a lot about the feasibility of a sub $100 computer.

        Historically prices on PCs have come down, but the low end computers have started to reach a limit. A sub $100 laptop/netbook is about as practical as it was 5 years ago except that you can put more RAM in it now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Zerth (26112)

          You can buy a Sheevaplug, retail, for $100 right now. It is essentially a netbook, sans screen/keyboard/touchpad/battery.

          Wholesale it is approaching $50. Keyboards & touchpads are a couple of dollars wholesale, netbook screens can be had for ~$50, and undersize netbook batteries for the same.

          Wait another year or two, when the core will come down to $25 and find a battery/screen combo for under $75, albeit with only a few hours of charge and a 7" screen. It won't run Windows, but it'll be better than

    • Re:Not possible (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:48AM (#30214432) Journal

      As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook.

      Who said the netbook cost $150? I would guess that the bulk purchases and low requirements could allow them to cut that down to sub $40 within four or five years. And even if the netbooks had decent hardware, look at the number of servers Google runs to provide free and paid services ... now what if you had idle processes on netbooks using up spare Atom (or whatever is out there) CPU time? Think about it, it could be the user footing part of your server energy bill.

      Another thing is that search result advertisements and even ads on gmail are worth more because they can be really targeted. But what do you advertise on a spreadsheet app? Users aren't looking for any info or such - they're working on their spreadsheet.

      Well, your logic works both ways. Why would I want to be bothered with ads when I'm busy working on my e-mail? And the data in a spreadsheet says a lot, if their doing their finances, you offer them financial products. Numbers and abbreviations give away a lot. If they are using scientific notation, you give them scientific product ads. It's also a single piece of Google's offerings. Docs and gmail are much more useful to me.

      It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

      You didn't list a lot of innovative ideas for their strategy to mitigate hardware cost and you also ignore the rapidly falling costs of hardware that the OLPC tried to take advantage of. I'm confident that if they embark on this endeavor, it will be well thought out and phased. I think you underestimate your worth in the eyes of Google and what it means to have you as a resource--both in purchasing power and generating content as a contributor.

      • Re:Not possible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:57AM (#30214590) Homepage Journal

        Who said the netbook cost $150? I would guess that the bulk purchases and low requirements could allow them to cut that down to sub $40 within four or five years. And even if the netbooks had decent hardware, look at the number of servers Google runs to provide free and paid services ... now what if you had idle processes on netbooks using up spare Atom (or whatever is out there) CPU time? Think about it, it could be the user footing part of your server energy bill.

        +1 insightful

        That might actually be what this is all about... getting users to pay for the electricity to run a grid. Especially if the netbook doesn't end up being free but just low enough to cover (most of) the cost of making it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          And if it gets down to that price, the same manufacturer (not google) is going to offer similar netbooks with other operating systems for a few bucks more, and without the advertising. they already have the economies of scale at that point, so why not milk it for a few extra bucks? Sell it with a real linux distro that doesn't have adware for $10 more. Sell it with Windows for $20 more. Sell it with OSX for ... ummm ... maybe not OSX ...

          Also, clicks from people running "welfarebooks" aren't going to

    • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:50AM (#30214474)

      It's just out of the question that a single user would be worth $150 for Google.

      Man, it's a good thing that Google has you to make tough judgements like that for them. Where would they be without you?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JWSmythe (446288)

      Well, the whole thing is speculation anyways, so it really doesn't matter.

      Plenty of companies sell or give away loss leaders. *IF* they did it, it could be used to get their product to market. They may give away the free version, with an upgrade path to a better version. They may give away the free version with pay features such as requiring a 2 year 3G contract, or pay to use the Google cloud services. Really, even without the advertising, it would be worth the money if they charged $

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sorton9999 (958384)
      Let's say the hardware DOES cost $150. I think over the lifetime of the hardware they can more than recoup the cost. I think it's in the realm of possibility to get $10 add revenue per month per user. That includes search revenue and adds splashed all over everything. They get their money back after 15 months. Let's say the average lifetime of the hardware is 2 years, they make money after a while. Of course, they make money sooner as the hardware gets cheaper.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Exactly. A small modification of the numbers, may result in it being economically feasible. Difficult to tell without knowing what the exact numbers are. (sorry no mod points, today)
      • Advertisers don't want clicks from users of what would be "welfarebooks".

        If they can't even afford $200 for a netbook, their demographics are horrendous. Advertisers base their CPM on such things as location, time of day, day of the week, referrer, OS (if I'm advertising pc software, I don't want mac user clicks, and vice versa), etc. Clicks from users of "free" computers won't generate revenue because advertisers will avoid them like the plague.

        These are the type of people who are the most likely to be engaged in click fraud, such as pay-to-click "make money at home surfing the web" scams. After all, if they can't afford a computer, they've got to pay for their net access somehow, and it's easier to do click fraud than to scrounge around the 'hood for returnable pop bottles.

        • by slim (1652) <john@nOspam.hartnup.net> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @03:11PM (#30217190) Homepage

          Advertisers don't want clicks from users of what would be "welfarebooks".

          Since you imply you've worked for the search industry, I'll take your word for it. But I'm surprised.

          The poor are a lucrative market for certain products, and many successful businesses made their fortunes by taking small amounts of money from large numbers of poor people. Simple and not-unethical example: discount supermarkets.

          Yeah, pushing Lexus adverts at them isn't going to work out. Pushing cornflakes ads at them might.

          • The problem is that too many of them participate in "pay-to-click". You may have seen that sort of thing - "make money surfing the web". Clickstreams from people in that general demographic, and a few others with smilar economic profiles, can't be monetized - they aren't worth even $0.001 (a tenth of a cent).

            Sure, they'd be suckers for credit cards at 35% interest, with a front-loaded fee on the first month of $75, etc. Problem is, they wouldn't even qualify for that ... and those that would, too many would default, so the advertiser would just find it to be a huge money pit.

            Then you have the possibility of mixing those into the general click pool - which only goes to lower the overall quality of your click stream to the advertiser, who then reasonably drops the price they're willing to pay - or if it now becomes marginal, drops that whole stream, because it's too contaminated with crap.

            Clicks in and of themselves have no value. It's only because you can safely predict that in a particular batch of clicks, from a particular set of sources, for a particular product, a certain percentage will convert to actions that ultimately generate the desired response - usually involving the exchange of money at some point. There's a floor to how low you can go for any demographic before it becomes unprofitable, and halo effects (such as "increasing brand recognition") have to be discounted. This can all be calculated in real time, then automatically applied to "protect" other ad campaigns against similar conversion-poor sources.

            At under a tenth of a cent per click, the associated costs just aren't worth it - better to devote the same resources to handling a market that *has* money. After all, to generate $10 of revenue, with a click-thru ratio of 2%, shared 50/50 with the web site desplaying the ad, at $0.001 per click, you'd need a million impressions. There's bottom-feeding, then there's *bottom-feeding*. A million page views to make $10? "Well, just show more ads per page!" Too many ads lowers your click-thru rate, so at a certain point, you're going backwards - and your page becomes a wall of ads and almost no content, so you end up losing traffic.

            This is just a replay of the old "get a free pc" gimmicks from years gone by, where you had to browse the web with a browser that constantly streamed ads. It didn't work, and this won't either. It's also extremely vulnerable to the peer-to-pear web (the real "cloud computing" model) that will render centralized search engines obsolete by the end of the next decade, but that's another story.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      I disagree. Google's clearly making money as it is, so what makes you think they wouldn't make even more from the info they can glean from a free netbook? It'd cost them minimal amounts to host applications which are already hosted.

      It also ties in wonderfully to android, given that you could have a laptop that could potentially use cellular for data.

      The bigger issue is the OS is very lackluster at the moment and there are issues trying to get more serious applications/work done via a cheap netbook of some v

    • Your $150 price point is interesting.

      AT&T subsidized $400 of my iPhone for signing a two-year contract with data plan.

      Let's say that Google offers up $50 of the netbook cost to get their OS in people's hands, and to get search and advertising revenue. Even if they lose a little money, they're buying market share. AT&T would only need to subsidize $100 of the netbook to get it to me for free. AT&T and Verizon are already doing deals where they will subsidize $100 of a netbook if you sign up for a

    • $150? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by OrangeTide (124937)

      What makes you think it would cost them $150 to make a netbook? If they have minimal needs in terms of memory and processing power it could be manufactured much more cheaply than that. I did some napkin math on a few things from a BOM on another product and discounted it heavily for very large volumes and ended up with $55.

    • Re:Not possible (Score:5, Interesting)

      by natehoy (1608657) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:39PM (#30215228) Journal

      I think the issue goes deeper than CPM.

      If you get someone to use this as their daily computer and load something that can track their every move (not just on the Web, but how much time they spend in a spreadsheet, on Thunderbird, on IM, etc), you can build a really valuable profile on them that goes FAR beyond simple google-analytics tracking or web ad responses.

      You can start building predictable behavior models for a significantly large population.

      That is data you simply cannot buy today.

      Experiments like this have been tried in the past, all to end in failure, but that's because something like this requires REALLY cheap hardware (the costs model being so low that you don't care that half of your freebie customers are hacking the hardware and taking out your stuff or using it as a specific-purpose machine, because the remaining half are using the systems for everything exactly as you intended). The data, if it can be gathered successfully, makes the hardware cost look cheap by comparison.

      Armed with this data, Google could start predicting with pretty creepy accuracy what the response rate is going to be to a particular campaign. Then they can start charging a higher CPM for ALL of their advertising, because they can do what no one else in the industry is able to do. Guarantee a specific response rate based on a carefully-crafted campaign, that is crafted based on good models of how people act in real life.

      Under the current model, an advertiser approaches Google and says "we want to advertise this new vehicle". Google gets info on the vehicle and charges a CPM for sending hopefully relevant clicks through to the automaker's page.

      With the new data model in place and populated, the advertiser approaches Google and says "we want to sell 5,000 automobiles". Google can charge a flat rate per actual sale, which they can predict based on these models. They'll not only be able to predict clickthrough rates, but have a fair shot at actual sales.

      And this is not only the people who participated - they would in theory use google-analytics surfing data for the entire websurfing population combined with the models they've build based on the people they track to predict behavior for a much larger population.

      So, for example, they come out with a new ad for the "Ford Monopole", a hypothetical electric car. The looks appeal to a subset of their tracked population that are into certain TV shows, search for certain movies on IMDB, and get emails from people who are into similar things. Use the analytics data from those TV shows' web sites to determine fans of the show/movie, and you can target campaigns to those people.

      Yes, advertisers do this today, but this could bring it to a whole new level, because they'll know which cars their tracked population actually bought and what factors led up to that decision. Then they can extrapolate that out to the larger population for which they have less complete data.

      Creeped out yet?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        Creeped out yet?

        Not particularly, given this would be an opt-in process. It's no different than people choosing to use club cards at the grocery store... except, in this case, they get a free netbook out of the deal.

        Would I do it? Meh, probably not. But for most people, I'd say they'd consider information about their personal browsing habits easily worth a free computer.

        And this is all assuming your paranoid fantasy is even true.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      As nice as it is to think that advertisements will cover everything, a single user isn't worth a $150+ netbook. Actually single user is worth a lot less for Google and other companies.

      Who says the netbook will cost $150?

      Hardware keeps getting cheaper... And if everything lives in the cloud then you really need virtually no local storage. Just a screen, keyboard, and some kind of Internet connection.

      What if the netbook only costs $100? $50?

      Lets say Google gets around $2 CPM on normal searches. That means a single search is worth something like $0.002 for Google. It's going to take lots of searches and ad clicks from every user to even cover the costs of the netbook. And the same users would be doing those searches and ad clicks anyway, so it serves no purpose.

      What about advertising that's physically on the netbook itself? Like logos and graphics and whatnot?

      Companies pay good money to advertise on billboards and in movies and on the sides of busses. You could take the low-tech approach and just slap som

    • by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @01:34PM (#30215986)

      Lets say Google gets around $2 CPM on normal searches. That means a single search is worth something like $0.002 for Google. It's going to take lots of searches and ad clicks from every user to even cover the costs of the netbook.

      Exactly. And because of infinite demand, you'll really need a lot of clicks, but you probably won't get many. Here's why. Let's say you make something free. Say a McDonald's hamburger. Suddenly you are going to have everyone running out to get the hamburger, even though they weren't planning to get one today, just because it is free. Now consider a netbook. I really don't want one, but heck, if it's free I'll take one! Everyone would take one, whether they really wanted one before or not, because it's a free portable computer. Now most of those people will later put that netbook on a shelf to gather dust as soon as the novelty wears off, because they really didn't have a deep need/desire for the netbook in the first place. They've probably got a desktop or laptop that has more computing power, more privacy, and runs a greater variety of apps, so they won't really need the netbook. The problem for google is that each of those netbooks still cost them 150, and now they don't even have people using them and clicking on ads.

      So this will be a guaranteed fiasco for Google should they choose to go through with this. They will have to make about 305 million of the netbooks because everyone in the US will want one (ok, maybe 250 million because there will be some 1 year olds and grandmas that don't, but anyone who knows how to use a computer will probably take one). Multiply those millions of units by 150 dollars, and that's how much advertising dollars google will need to have just to break even. And that's oversimplifying things, because since the apps live in the cloud, you have to have the server infrastructure, bandwidth costs, engineering, support techs, software developers, etc. Their costs will be much greater than the costs for the Windows OS, because at least with a Windows OS you don't have to provide a server, bandwidth, PC, etc, because it's off running on a user PC somewhere. I think you start to see how there is no way this will possibly happen... no way can they get the ad revenue to cover this. Plus it's naive to assume that they will even get that many users (something they would have to have, since that's the only way they could truly corner the ad market and charge the premium prices they'd need to pay for this), since most people will probably stick with Linux, Mac, or Windows.

  • They asked me to, and I did it! Why wouldn't I? They're Google, after all, and they can Do No Evil. Besides, it was shiny, and open source...

  • A free _netbook_? (Score:3, Informative)

    by E-Sabbath (42104) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:36AM (#30214238)

    Considering the uses I'd have for a netbook, yes. It wouldn't replace my main computer. It'd be a walking about sort of tool. If it had a cell modem in it, so much the better.

    Yeah, I'd allow it for a netbook. Advertise all you want.

    • It would be a freaking toy. You'd end up using your main computer because at that price, the darn thing is almost disposable.

      And if it had a cell modem in it, it would end up costing you a lot more than free, $150/whatever.

      Plastic tinker-toy tools are for those that just play around. Buying something with quality helps-- despite the fact that today's quad-core notebook has a half-life of only three years if we're lucky.

  • Someone will figure out how to hack it and use it for whatever you want.

    Sign me up

    • by Abreu (173023)

      Or the :CueCat

  • No I won't (Score:4, Informative)

    by godrik (1287354) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:37AM (#30214262)

    I won't use a machine which is useless without network. I don't like to rely on an internet connection because some times it breaks. I want to be able to store files on my computer and use it on the plane. And I want to be able to do it off-line. I want all my tools locally, I need LaTeX to work, I need a compiler, I need scientific visualization tools.

    I believe in free-as-in-speech software and I don't see how GoogleOS really fits into it.

    • by ProppaT (557551)

      You realize that this machine is intended for browsing the internet and updating your blog on the couch or at *bucks, not replacing your normal computer, right? No one is expecting anyone to get work done on this thing...it'd be too small to be a productive work computer to begin with...but it'd be good enough for social networking, instant messaging, e-mail, etc.

      You can't have it both ways. You want total control over all your software on a free machine? That's never going to happen. I suspect a tool l

    • Count me in (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingSkippus (799657) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:05PM (#30214692) Homepage Journal

      I won't use a machine which is useless without network.

      I just about can't use a machine without using a network. My favorite game is an MMORPG, which is useless without a network. Even other games, I usually have a browser window open for reference. My e-mail is accessed via a web client. (Even with a local client, all you could do is compose or read, not send or receive.) I do web development, which is on a remote web host. When I'm developing things locally in Visual Studio, I'm constantly using online references and documentation. I suppose I could in theory write a letter or something, but to be honest, I don't write letters to people any more. I even require the Internet to do something as simple as watch television these days. (Broadcast tv? Forget it, I use Hulu.)

      If you don't use the Internet as much as I do, more power to you. But I really think that going forward, offline computer use is going to be the exception, not the rule. I think saying what you said will eventually sound like, "I won't use a telephone that is useless without a wireless connectivity." Like the cell network, the Internet is so pervasive today that it's weird to run across an application that doesn't use it in some capacity.

      Oh, and by the way, Chromium is released under the BSD license [google.com], which is free-as-in-speech. I don't know what the license terms will be if such a hypothetical netbook were released, but at least the OS running on it would be open source. From a freedom-as-in-Stallman viewpoint, it may not be perfect, but it is orders of magnitude better than what is currently running on most netbooks out there. Evil is not the opposite of perfect.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      OF course you wont, and neither will any of the other .005% users who need a computer to work that way.

      GoogleOS fits into it because free-as-in-speech software is much bigger then you.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Why do LaTeX, a compiler, and scientific visualization tools (R?) need to be run locally? I never had a problem running everything in an SSH (-X as needed) session. Yes there's an issue if you can't connect to the network, but if Google can work things out with cell providers and airlines (and I don't see why they couldn't) there would be very few dead zones.

      As for free-as-in-speech software, aren't Android and Chrome OS both open source?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      I won't use a machine which is useless without network. I don't like to rely on an internet connection because some times it breaks. I want to be able to store files on my computer and use it on the plane. And I want to be able to do it off-line. I want all my tools locally, I need LaTeX to work, I need a compiler, I need scientific visualization tools.

      I believe in free-as-in-speech software and I don't see how GoogleOS really fits into it.

      I do believe you've completely missed the point.

      If the device is little more than a portable web browser, what would you do with it offline?

      Netbooks are not intended to run LaTeX or compilers or scientific visualization... They're intended to surf the web, log on to Facebook, and check your email.

      Fine, you need LaTeX and compilers and scientific visualization to work... But you're on vacation, on a road trip somewhere. You've stopped at a rest stop somewhere that offers free WiFi and you're wondering if t

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#30214286) Homepage

    Sure, as long as it wasn't too difficult to wipe it and install Debian.

  • Pay (Score:3, Interesting)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#30214288) Homepage Journal

    I would pay to not see the ads. I would also pay to retain control over the device (assuming the give-away would be a type of lease).

    But the privacy arguments are an issue whether or not you buy the device. If your apps are on the web, they're on someone's servers, whether you paid for the client or not.

    • Honestly, this is a parallel direction I'd love to see Google expand into. They have great services, but I just don't really like ads that much -- even ads as subtle as Google's. I'd use GMail more if I could pay a reasonable annual fee to skip the ads and have a nice, clean web UI.

      I know Google offers an enterprise solution to this effect, but I've never seen a consumer solution marketed.

  • Duhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:39AM (#30214290)
    I'd take several dozen, probably hundreds... hardware can't be given away. I think.... I'd wallpaper my house with monitors. I'm sure I could make a nice server/web ap to run all the buggers even if I couldn't take the hardware apart.

    Basically, the idea is impossible and stupid.

  • Yes, absolutely...there is never a catch to free stuff being handed out by large corporations!! Sign me up!

  • I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords.
  • by foobsr (693224) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#30214318) Homepage Journal
    ... having a patent on forced advertising [slashdot.org].

    Myself, I would not want such crap.

    CC.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#30214326) Homepage Journal

    I can see hotels, conference centers, and the like providing computers "brought to you by Google" or for that matter any advertising partner.

    Of course, to be a winner with businesses they would have to allow VPNs to work and would have to guarentee there were no keyloggers or other security issues with the device. That should be easy enough to promise if the device boots over the network from an authenticated and trusted source and the machine were epoxy-sealed to prevent tampering.

    • by alen (225700)

      a lot of business hotels offer printing as well, so there would have to be a way to customize the OS to be able to print on the local printer

  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zapotek (1032314) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .soksal.sosat.> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:40AM (#30214328) Homepage
    I'm guessing AdBlock and/or NoScript are out of the question, huh?
    • AdBlock (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Enderandrew (866215)

      I can't imagine that Google likes AdBlock, but they've made no effort to stop people from developing AdBlock solutions for the Chrome browser. Likewise, Google is the primary source of revenue for Mozilla, and Mozilla says Google has never suggested they try to block AdBlock.

  • I would easily take a free netbook if it were offered. I'd mess around with it, if it was useful, I'd continue using it, if not, it would go in the big pile of laptops I've replaced but haven't gotten rid of yet. (Going back to a PowerBook 540c from 1994, IIRC).

    However, I can't see the advertising or whatever actually making up for it, especially considering that a fair number of them wouldn't end up being used at all, and many would end up being used for strange purposes.

    The last time I remember a company

  • with a free CueCat [wikipedia.org], sure!

  • by Dartz-IRL (1640117) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:43AM (#30214362)

    No..

    Aside from Gmail, (which I access with Thunderbird) I try not to use too many google services. . I'm also mindful of that recent Apple patent about ad's which can physically block the machine, forcing the user to interact with them.

    There's also a personal freedom/privacy issue.

    I use Linux because it's 'mine' as such. I can pretty do what I want with it (compared to traditional software licenses anyway). I'm not quite sure how to word this in a rational .... but something about Google providing me a free laptop, in exchange for being allowed to target-advertise me.... it's deeply unsettling. I don't like being followed.

    Of course, I'm just a tinfoil hat moron, but well.... my computer is my castle, thick stone walls around my data safeguarding my privacy against casual observers.
    I don't want transparent walls of glass showing my world to someone else.... even it it was free.

    It feels very Big brother-ish.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Your ego is much to big.

      No one need to follow you, and no one out side your circle of family gives damn about you.

      "It feels very Big brother-ish."
      IF ti were BIg Brother then you would be forced to take it, it would watch everything you do all that time, work to keep you ignorant.

      Google and the internet are the anti-thesis to Big Brother. So are a populace with cameras.
      LEt me know when only a large body control all information, can't be tracked, and controls all cameras, and actively hunts down people who in

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      So you get one of these, use it just for Gmail, and block Google from even being accessed on your main machine(s). What the hell, it's free. :)

      I don't know if it would be a profitable proposition for Google, but I'd get one of these little buggers in a second. I'd do my Gmail, my Google Earth, my Google Voice, my Facebook, etc on it. Then I'd have a REAL machine that I'd do my finances and other sensitive stuff on.

  • No Thanks (Score:2, Interesting)

    My privacy comes with a higher price tag then just some POS hardware.

    I rather have my own hardware and software that does not call home every second I'm on it and throwing ads in my face constantly.

  • A $200 netbook is not worth losing the privacy. If I can't run a 7-pass wipe algorithm over my data, I don't want to use it.

  • Net Apps are useful in a pinch, but I don't think anyone here believes they can offer the speed and versatility of a full blow spreadsheet or word processor (like Word/Excel or Open Office). They just won't put enough effort into development to make it a realistic substitute... on NETBOOK machinery. Then there's the issue of not having an internet connection, but needing to work or wanting to read something.
  • Remember the 90's (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ceiynt (993620) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:49AM (#30214452)
    When companies would hand out free computers to anyone who asked, but they were so ad laden they were unusable? Or stopped whatever it was you were doing to play some sort of video for 30 seconds? Nothing is free.
  • Here I've just gotten my head around Android, and now there's Chrome OS. Will someone please explain, why? Why would anyone bother with Chrome OS? I mean, weren't we just talking about a netbook with Android?

    I get Android. It's the open-source, linux-type competitor to Windows Mobile and iPhone OS, being helped by Google's name and stature in the mobile market.

    But Chrome OS? I understand netbooks will run slightly faster with linux or some lightweight variant than with Windows XP, but really, the hardw

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I don't think you understand Android as well as you think you do.
      Android was made for smart phone devices. There are some key differences between netbooks and smart phones in what you can do regarding multi-tasking and power. To jst name two.

  • No thanks. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Old97 (1341297) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @11:51AM (#30214490)
    I've already removed Google software from my Mac & PC. No, I don't want to tether to the Google cloud or any cloud and give up my privacy or freedom. At what point will companies like Google be compelled to enforce government mandates and restrictions? (Think China today. The U.S. will start with DMCA and Europe will restrict whatever they think is "offensive" to others.)
  • I doubt they'll ever give away a free computer as hypothesized but, if they did, I'd get one. Now, I'm Canadian so I don't have the same cultural distrust of Big Brother that most Americans have (not a knock - just an honest observation - it is a cultural difference between our two countries) so I'm sure that plays a big part of it but, to me, I'm willing to "pay" for a computer by giving Google some valuable information that they can use to better advertise to me. That is, after all, what they would be "bu
  • If it is free I'd take it.

    And then install a Linux distro on it + adblock plus, noscript, ....
  • I wouldn't use a free netbook from Google because I'm a developer. I also play games, use Photoshop, and other things that are out of the scope of web apps. However, the primary audience of Chrome OS (people who just need to do word processing, spreadsheets, email, check the internet, etc.) would probably love it. They're already used to their computer being full of ads from the spyware they don't know how to avoid, so a free computer with (theoretically) nicer ads is probably infinitely preferable to a $3
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      Chromium isn't about a target user, it's about a target use. I'm also the developer, gamer, video editor type; that doesn't mean a netbook wouldn't come in handy for other things. My wife and I fight over the laptop all the time but I refuse to spend the money on a second one, a free netbook (even if all it could do was browse the web) would be very welcome.

      That being said, it'll never happen. As someone up above pointed out, a single user isn't worth hundreds of dollars to Google, and it would only be a

  • by Like2Byte (542992) <Like2Byte.yahoo@com> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:02PM (#30214648) Homepage

    The good gents at IBM didn't see the value in the "Operating System" Microsoft was selling them.

    The good gents at Microsoft didn't see the value in monitoring what their users' daily activity on their respective OS was.

    I wonder what the good gents at Google are ignoring today that will be a gold mine tomorrow.

    ---

    On another note: I'm very surprised that people are all that interested in what is, essentially, a SpyOS. Forget tracking cookies - this OS is going to be tracking people's behavior 24 hours a day.

    Not to provide any ideas into advanced Spywware under the guise of "free useful PC" but imagine if there is a GPS in the netbook that is able to track the users' movements. Traffic patterns, of the individual, could be analyzed and combined with other users and applicable advertising will show up for 'popular' products both in on-line advertising and roadside billboards.

    I don't want to get too far off topic so I'll ask this question: When did we turn the corner of being Anti-Spyware to being Pro-Spyware?

  • Otherwise I won't touch it. I don't like being spied over so easily.
  • Why would I want a netbook, free or not? You have to have demand first before you think of price, and even at price 0, demand is not infinite (you've got to carry the thing home, find a place to stash it, etc. - there are costs involved in addition to the price).

    So no. Even for free, I wouldn't have a use for it. The whole netbook thing is pointless anyways and will soon blow over.

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:08PM (#30214730)

    i have already started teaching my son who is 2 and a few months about computers. found a few free games like Thomas the Train that he likes. and for reading i'll open up Google and type in Dora in the search box and spell it out for him letter by letter. he already knows most of the letters of the alphabet, can count to 12 with help, knows a bunch of basic shapes and colors. time to teach him to read since most of the good NYC schools expect a child to read and write by 1st grade. at least that's what i'm told by parents with kids that old. the good schools in the NYC suburbs are the same way.

    a free or ultra low cost Google netbook is perfect for this. my son likes to bang on the keyboard so if it breaks i just go get another one. nothing to break software-wise.

    a few months of playing with one of these junky useless Chrome OS gizmos and he will be ready for a real computer. i'm thinking a Mac just because he can learn some UNIX on it and it's usable unlike most of the linux distro's i've tried. I do think Ubuntu sucks as a home PC

    i've played with the Chrome OS vmware image floating around the internet and i don't think it has any value at all for a normal person or any kind of computer user i've ever met

  • by tmosley (996283) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:13PM (#30214774)
    I don't think they would be able to give them away for free, though. As someone else mentioned, people would take advantage of that, and wallpaper their rooms with monitors and such. What I would do is charge the person who wanted one COST or something less than cost, and let your profits come from the advertising as mentioned. If the cost to make one of these things is ten or twenty dollars, as speculated in the article, it would probably work quite well. I'd pay ten or twenty bucks for a Google netbook. Hell, if it provided free internet access, I'd pay a few hundred, a la Kindle. I think most people in the developed world would do the same. That is, assuming it remained open and unhobbled.
  • "It's the morning after the big Chrome OS event .. now that the news is out, has Chrome OS lost its shine?"

    Chromium OS [readwriteweb.com] has been out one whole day and already you can tell it's reception is lukewarm. Maybe you should be doing magic future prediction acts on television, like Derren Brown [davidnaylor.co.uk] predicting what the lottery results are going to be.
  • by Tarlus (1000874) on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:16PM (#30214820)
    Give us a free netbook at the cost of seeing ads? You're forgetting one thing: Chrome OS is Linux at its heart, and we're a bunch of Linux geeks. We'd have those ads hacked out of it faster than you could say "/etc/hosts.deny".
  • Attempted before (Score:5, Informative)

    by flogger (524072) <non@nonegiven> on Tuesday November 24, 2009 @12:29PM (#30215088) Journal
    This was attempted before with Free-Pc.com (Now it is just a parked domain). This was back in 1999. 10000 free Compaq computers were given away. In return people gave up personal information/demographics/hobbies/etc in return for a PC that had advertising on the screen 24/7. Source [nettime.org].

    The attempt was a bust if I recall right.

    But this is 10 years later; we have come a long way in targeted advertising. If anyone can do this, it is Google.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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