The first laptops running on a Google-designed software system will go on sale in the U.S. and six other countries June 15.

One of its big promises is a faster bootup time.

“Chromebooks boot in 8 seconds and resume instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash,” Google says on the website announcing the rollout. “In fact, Chromebooks are designed to get faster over time as updates are released.”

The release date announced Wednesday means the lightweight laptops will hit the market nearly two years after Google Inc. began working on an operating system based on its Chrome Web browser.

Since then, Apple Inc.’s iPad and other tablet computers have become hot sellers. The growing popularity of tablets has raised questions about how interested consumers will be interested in buying Google-powered laptops specifically tailored for Web surfing.

Samsung and Acer are making the first “Chromebooks” with at prices ranging from $349 to $499. The cheapest iPad sells for $499.

Acer is the world’s No. 3 PC maker but has been struggling this year and recently replaced its chief executive officer.

Morrisville, N.C.-based Lenovo is No. 4 and  closing on Acer.

Lenovo is making a big push to speed up the boot time for its own laptops.

Other highlights from Google about Chromebooks:

  • “It’s easy to get connected anytime and anywhere with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G. As your Chromebook boots up, it quickly connects to your favorite wireless network so you’re on the web right from the start. 3G models include a free 100 MB per month of mobile data from Verizon Wireless so you can keep working around home and on the go. Learn more about 3G.”
  • “Your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log in to another Chromebook and get right back to work.”
  • “Every Chromebook runs millions of web apps, from games to spreadsheets to photo editors. Thanks to the power of HTML5, many apps keep working even in those rare moments when you’re not connected. Visit the Chrome Web Store to try the latest apps, or just type in a URL. No CDs required.”
  • “Chromebooks are easy to share with family and friends. They can log in to experience all of their own Chrome settings, apps, and extensions, or use Guest Mode to browse privately. Either way, no one else using your Chromebook will have access to your email and personal data.”
  • “Your Chromebook gets better and better over time, unlike a traditional PC. When you turn it on, it updates itself. Automatically. All of your apps stay up-to-date, and you get the latest and greatest version of the operating system without having to think about it. Annoying update prompts not included.”
  • “Chromebooks run the first consumer operating system designed from the ground up to defend against the ongoing threat of malware and viruses. They employ the principle of “defense in depth” to provide multiple layers of protection, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot.”

Technical specs for the Acer model:

  • 11.6″ HD Widescreen CineCrystalTM LED-backlit LCD
  • 2.95 lbs. | 1.34 kg.
  • 6 hours of continuous usage 1
  • Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
  • Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
  • HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
  • High-Definition Audio Support
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4-in-1 memory card slot
  • HDMI port
  • Fullsize Chrome keyboard
  • Oversize fully-clickable trackpad

Technical specs for the Samsung model:

  • 12.1″ (1280×800) 300 nit Display
  • 3.26 lbs / 1.48 kg
  • 8.5 hours of continuous usage 1
  • Intel® AtomTM Dual-Core Processor
  • Built in dual-band Wi-Fi and World-mode 3G (optional)
  • HD Webcam with noise cancelling microphone
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • 4-in-1 memory card slot
  • Mini-VGA port
  • Fullsize Chrome keyboard
  • Oversize fully-clickable trackpad

The Chromebooks also will be sold in Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

Targeting Microsoft

In an effort to get people to use Chromebooks, Google is offering three-year subscription plans to businesses and schools similar to how the mobile phone industry subsidizes devices up front and make the money back over the life of a service contract. For a monthly cost of $28 per user in businesses and government agencies and $20 per user in schools, Google provides the laptop, tech support and a warranty for the duration. Google will replace the Chromebooks at the end of the three years.

Chromebook’s long-awaited debut will intensify Google’s competition with Microsoft Corp., whose Windows operating system remains the foundation of most personal computers.

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have long felt that Windows computers took too long to power up and were too clunky to operate. They believed that Windows’ drawbacks were discouraging people from spending even more time online, where they could click on ads sold by Google.

To address the perceived problem, Google announced its plans in July 2009 for a Chrome-based operating system that would enable computers to turn on in a matter of seconds and encourage more Web surfing.

“The complexity of managing computers is really frustrating for users out there,” Brin told reporters Wednesday at Google’s conference for software developers. “It’s a flawed model.”

Brin, who began focusing on special projects earlier this year, said he didn’t have enough information to comment on a Justice Department investigation into the online ad system that generates most of Google’s revenue. The company disclosed Tuesday that it has set aside $500 million to settle the probe. It provided few details.

Besides attacking Microsoft’s Windows franchise, Google’s Chromebook also will represent another challenge to Apple, which makes Mac computers as well as iPads. Google and Apple have been engaged in a fierce competition in the smartphone market for the past two years.

Google itself has joined the tablet computer craze by creating a special version of its Android software for mobile devices. Apple sold nearly 20 million iPads during the tablet’s first year on the market. and analysts expect people to buy tens of millions more tablets from Apple and other manufacturers during the next few years.

Read more about the Chromebooks here.

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