Google's new brandless, charcoal notebooks are incredibly hard to get—even if they are free. The search giant is giving away its Chrome OS-based Cr-48s to a lucky few who apply and pass the selection process.
To give Fast Company readers some inside tips, we spoke with a source at Google, who provided some details on the limited edition notebooks.
First off, don't get your hopes up. Google is shipping just thousands of the Cr-48s. Tens of thousands? No, says the source. Only thousands.
In order to get your hands on one, you'll have to be lucky—and make sure you're not falling out of the notebook's use-cases. For example, the source explains, if you are a financial analyst who spends all day writing macros in Excel, this might not be the right device. If you are a photographer who does complex photo editing, this isn't the notebook for you either.
But if you are a student who takes notes in Google Docs, uses Facebook and Twitter, and watches YouTube vidoes, the Cr-48 will be right up your alley.
Of course, you're not guaranteed the device if you match that description. What Google is looking for are early adopters: those who like getting their hands on technology early; those who like playing with potentially buggy software; and those who are going to make for an interesting use-case for the Chrome OS. Ultimately, what's most important is feedback: Google wants not only to perfect its software, but to discover its widest range of applications.
I also asked whether it mattered what Google products were selected on the application form. Would a Google Docs-editing, Gmail-reading, Orkut-socializing, Picasa-uploading, Android-dialing, Eric Schmidt-loving user be preferable to an iPhone-toting, Facebook-loving, Windows-based consumer? The source chuckled, then disagreed. No one question will disqualify you from the notebook. Your application's success does not hinge on how many Google devices you wield.
Location, however, plays into the process. Google wants to test a diverse sampling of users, meaning if someone in your area (or office) has already received one, you're probably out of luck. The company is interested in testing the notebook on a range of Wi-Fi networks, routers, and printers.
But if you don't end up getting a Cr-48, you can always wait six months until the OS heads to retail on several devices. Google's notebook will never be for sale on Amazon or Best Buy—that's why Google made the test shell hardware entirely brandless, so as not to confuse consumers, the source says.
Of course, what we're all interested in is what the retail version of the Cr-48 will look like from OEMs such as Acer and Samsung. Will it have the same keyboard, sans Google key? All designs are a work in progress, the source said. It's about simplicity—getting rid of the unnecessary parts.
And most important, what about pricing? How much were are the Cr-48s costing Google per unit? If other OEMs are using it as a model, would it be priced similarly? Is it in the low hundreds of dollars? It must be less expensive than an iPad, right?
The source demurred, saying costs would not be revealed for the Cr-48. And the price for future retail models? That will be dictated by the OEMs, and depend on their models' processing speed, battery life, and other under-the-hood specs.
How much do you think Chrome OS notebooks will cost? Will they be less expensive than iPads? Have you applied for yours yet? If not, fill out the application here.
Follow Austin Carr on Twitter.