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Utah company says it has first Chrome OS desktop

Published May 20, 2011 8:47 pm

Xi3 will begin selling the computers that will use Web-based Google system later this year.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Salt Lake City company made Friday what it says is the first announcement of a desktop computer that will run on Google's Internet-focused Chrome operating system.

Xi3 Corp., a startup that will begin selling its tiny desktop computers soon, said it will have Chrome-based units available later this year.

Last week, Google announced that the first laptop computers operated by Chrome would be available June 15 in the United States and six other countries, and then in other countries in coming months.

Jason Sullivan, Xi3 founder and CEO, said the ChromiumPC running on the company's Xi3 modular computer will access Web-based (also called cloud) applications, such as Google Docs, rather than traditional systems where the operating system and applications are installed on a hard drive.

"This is just the next logical step where instead of some of the applications being Web-driven, all the applications are Web-driven," said Sullivan. "That requires very little cost on the computer side from a software perspective."

The ChromiumPC will be available later in the year, but the company did not announce a price range.

Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at Gartner, pointed Friday to the Chromebooks in arguing that the Chrome OS future depends on what functions the machines have and at what price.

"What we are seeing now is some of these early Chromebooks are coming into the same price point where you could get a much more capable and full-featured device," he said. "That's going to be a challenge for these Chrome devices. Unless the economics makes sense, then you're paying computing prices for something that just runs a Web browser."

Google's Chrome OS is part of its strategy to challenge the traditional operating systems, Microsoft's Windows and Apple's Mac, and the software applications that run on them. Google offers online word processing, spreadsheets and other applications for free to individuals and for a small fee per user to businesses. The Chrome OS is open source, meaning it is free to users and developers.

Google representatives did not return an email seeking comment on the Xi3 Corp. announcement. In its online promotion of the Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung, Google said they boot up in about 10 seconds.

When users start up the Xi3 ChromiumPC machine, they fill in a username and password and are connected to a Web page, Sullivan said.

"It would look and feel very much like your phone, only it would be a full desktop screen with a keyboard and mouse," he said.

Sullivan said he sees a market for the ChromiumPC for both businesses and individuals.

"This could save companies millions of dollars in software costs by literally putting people online instead of buying and procuring applications that sit on their desktops," he said.

Sullivan said Web-based systems also greatly lessen the danger of a machine becoming infected with a virus because they have no software, except a "very, very small" operating system.

As more Web-based operating systems are available, new, relatively cheap cards can be manufactured so that the Xi3 can run them, he said.

Xi3 Corp. launched itself into the public eye just before the annual Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

The novel size of the company's Xi3 computer and its ability to be easily and cheaply upgraded are possible because the motherboard has been cut into smaller pieces. The design also uses about only one-fifth of the electricity of a traditional desktop. The company will start shipping orders for its computers other the than the ChromiumPC on July 4, several months later than it had previously forecast.


Twitter: @tomharvey@sltrib.com






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