Google offers first Chrome OS netbooks to testers

So the great Internet rumor mill foretold, and so it was! Google has pulled the curtain off the very first Chrome OS laptop, as expected, although we're talking about an unbranded machine offered exclusively to testers for now—not all that exciting. The search giant has also announced the forthcoming arrival of retail systems from Acer and Samsung, which will be available "in the first half of next year," and it has revealed plans to help bring Chrome OS to "devices beyond notebooks."

What you see above is the Cr-48 Chrome Notebook which has a 12.1" display, Verizon 3G connectivity, and rated battery life of eight hours. (Standby time is said to be eight days, too.) You won't find this system on store shelves; instead, you'll need to apply for the pilot program here for a chance to get one.

Google is hoping to get Cr-48 laptops to folks in the business, education, non-profit, and developer communities, as well as "qualified users." The pilot program is U.S.-only for now. From what I can see, this is basically a closed software beta with some hardware involved. Google explains on its blog, "We’re not done yet, but Chrome OS is at the stage where we need feedback from real users. Some of the features of Chrome OS require new hardware, but we didn't want to sell pre-beta computers."

In related news, Google has opened the Chrome Web Store, which looks pretty much like an app store for web apps. Like the Cr-48 pilot program, though, this is only open to users in the States for now.

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