Now that people are comfortable with renting their music and movies online, how about renting a laptop? That's precisely what a new Google rumor points to. For just $20 a month, Google will lease students a Chrome OS-powered laptop.
What kind of laptop will $20 a month get you? If you've been following along with the Chrome CR-48 laptop, it's basically just a web browser that's instant-on and runs web apps. No complex file systems, folders, terabytes of storage and weird kernel panics. Everything in a Chrome OS laptop revolves around Google's online suite of services and all your data is stored in the cloud.
The rumor thickens with murmurs that Google will also send students a new laptop should something break or a newer model comes out. We're not really sure how Google will determine who gets an upgrade and on what merits, but hey, new stuff! Non-students will also get the chance to pick up a Chrome OS laptop for an undetermined one-time price.
So here's the math: $20 a month is $240 a year and $480 for two years. Assuming that most people use their computer for an average of four years, that's $960. With that money, you could just buy a full-blown laptop with all the bells and whistles. So why would you rent a laptop? Well, probably for the same reason anyone rents anything: they can't afford to pay it all up front and want the flexibility of getting the latest hardware at a fraction of the cost.
Sure, most Chrome OS laptops are going to be built with netbook parts, but that's the beauty of the OS: it doesn't need a mega-powerful processor or a super-charged graphics card. Chrome OS laptops will be plenty powerful for students to do schoolwork such as cranking out a report and tallying up digits in a spreadsheet. And no, Starcraft II doesn't count as schoolwork.
Google's set to announce its new rent-a-laptop service today at its Google I/O conference. We'll update this story as the dust settles and the facts trickle out.
Via PC World