By Scott Martin
SAN FRANCISCO - Google today showed off a sleek touch-screen laptop based on its Chrome operating system, making a big bet on a premium-priced, cloud-based machine in direct aim at Apple.
The Mountain View, Calif., search giant unveiled the new touch laptop, called the Chromebook Pixel, at a press event here. The touch-screen device has the highest resolution available in a laptop, says Google.
"It's clear touch is here to stay and it's the future," said Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome at Google.
Google's Chromebook Pixel, a sleek aluminum-encased machine, in many ways physically resembles Apple's Mac lineup.
But the Pixel targets a generation of people whose photos and applications are accessed via remote servers from so-called cloud-based services. That's because nowadays people spend most of their time in a Web browser on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon or any number of services. The new Chromebooks will provide people 1 terabyte of data storage in the cloud for three years.
"We think this is a real game changer in terms of people living in the cloud," said Pichai.
Google's Pixel screen tops the 2560-by-1600 resolution of Apple's Macbook Pro with its Retina display, which Apple has previously touted as the highest-resolution notebook ever.
"What you're getting from our hardware in many ways is far superior" to Apple, said Pichai.
Pixel laptops will be available at $1,299 for a 32 GB Wi-Fi version (shipping next week) and $1,449 for 64GB 4G LTE version (scheduled to ship the first week of April). People can order them today at the Google Play store and tomorrow at Best Buy stores.
Google has been turning up the heat on Microsoft's Windows and Office franchise. The Chromebooks from their very beginning featured a boot up time of a few seconds and quick access to Chrome search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube and Docs. Now, the Pixel has added an integrated Google Drive with the massive storage addition.
Hardware manufacturers of those non-touch models include Samsung, Acer, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard, with prices starting at just $199.
"Google smells blood" at Microsoft, said IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete. "They are an incredibly interesting proposition."
The new Chromebook is just over half an inch thick and and weighs 3.3 lbs. The Pixel has a 12.85-inch display that has twice as many pixels as a standard HDTV, with 2560 X 1700 resolution, and uses Gorilla Glass, the durable glass used in Apple's iPhones.
"It is the highest resolution that has ever been shipped on a laptop," Pichai said.
The Pixel packs an Intel Core i5, a dual-core 1.8GHz processor, and has 4GB of DDR3 RAM memory. Google says the device's battery lasts up to 5 hours.
Google's Chromebook Pixel is designed in house but made by several manufacturers based in Taiwan.