Google launches notebooks with 'no programs'

A line of notebook computers that operate with no programs have been unveiled by Google.

A line of notebook computers that operate with no programs on them has been unveiled by Google.

The company's new Chromebooks use the Google Chrome operating system, based on the company's Chrome browser, Google announced on its blog and at its annual Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco Wednesday.

That means they have no programs, no desktop and nothing to start up, according to an animated video promoting the computers.

They are reliant on an integrated web browser and web applications for all their functionality. The web, rather than a local hard drive, is also used for storing user files such as music, documents and videos.

How safe is the cloud?

Google says storing all your documents, photos and other files on a server on the internet — "the cloud" — means they are safe if your computer is lost, stolen or damaged. However, it means that users rely on companies like Google to keep their data safe and secure. 

Google has had some data storage hiccups in the past. For example, this past March, tens of thousands of Gmail users found their email inboxes empty after the messages were wiped out by a software glitch. It took several days for Google to restore the missing emails from tape backups. In 2009, Google Docs shared some of users' documents with other users over the internet without their consent.

However, Google has argued  that far more data breaches are the result of the loss of a storage devices such as a USB key, CD or DVD.

That means the notebooks can boot in eight seconds, don't require updates and can't lose data in hard drive crashes, the company said.

Google also promises that its built-in security means anti-virus software is unnecessary.

The computer's functions are limited when it's disconnected from the internet, although the Chrome browser can support the use of Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar offline, along with other applications or websites that use HTML5 to run when disconnected from the internet.

In addition to using WiFi, the Chromebook can be purchased with optional 3G wireless service, providing internet connectivity wherever 3G phones can get a signal.

Chromebook models made by Samsung and Acer will go on sale online June 15 in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain starting at $349. The company said they would be available in other countries "over the next few months" but would not release details about a Canadian launch.

In addition to individual users, Google is also targeting schools and businesses, with monthly rental subscriptions that allow them to manage applications and permissions on a fleet of Chromebooks, starting at $20 per month per school user and $28 per month per business user.

Google gave away Chromebooks for free to developers at the I/O conference.