Google Inc, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, debuted a touchscreen version of the Chromebook laptop, stepping up its challenge to Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc in computer hardware.
A Wi-Fi only version of the Pixel Chromebook went on sale in the US on Thursday for US$1,299, Google said at an event in San Francisco.
In April, the company plans to introduce a US$1,449 version with access to so-called long-term evolution wireless networks, the fastest available.
Google, already leading in the market for smartphones with its Android software, is expanding in hardware to lure more users to its Web-based services with Chromebooks that rely on Internet applications instead of built-in software.
The company is taking a risk by pushing into the high end of a personal-computer market that has been slammed by diminishing demand.
Laptop purchases have tapered off as consumers and businesses increasingly favor smartphones and tablets.
“There’s a limited number of things you can do well with these types of machines,” IDC analyst Al Hilwa said. “The price is fairly high.”
In June, Google unveiled a US$199 touchscreen tablet, Nexus 7, to compete with Apple’s iPad as well as the Surface, a tablet introduced that month by Microsoft.
An older Chromebook made by Acer Inc (宏碁) costs US$199, while some versions from Samsung Electronics Co and Hewlett-Packard Co cost more than US$300.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, has stumbled with some previous forays into hardware. The company’s Chrome laptops have been slow to gain traction with consumers, as have the Google TV set-top boxes and high-definition televisions.
“First it was the battle of hardware, then it was the battle of software, now it’s the battle of hardware, software, browsers and eyeballs,” said Laurence Balter, an analyst at Oracle Investment Research.
The Pixel machine will be built by a manufacturer in Taiwan, Google said, without naming the company.
It has 4.3 million pixels, more than twice as many as a typical high-definition television, and features a 12.85-inch screen, Google said.
The device has a glass touchpad, and it runs Google’s Chrome operating system, it added.
“Touch is here to stay and is the future,” Chrome senior vice president Sundar Pichai said at the event.
“We wanted to design something which was very high end and premium for power users — people who are very, very demanding of their laptops,” he added.
Best Buy Co will sell the Pixel Chromebook on its Web site, as will Google, the company said.