Tech

Google Joins AI Laptop Party With Chromebook Plus

Google announced on Tuesday its new Chromebook Plus computers, featuring advanced AI capabilities integrated directly into the devices. These new features include “Help Me Write,” AI-generated videoconferencing backgrounds, Magic Editor for photos, and direct access to Google’s AI assistant, Gemini, from the home screen.

Help Me Write aids users in generating text from prompts or rewriting existing text to adjust tone, length, or style.

The AI-generated backgrounds feature enhances any videoconferencing app by providing a variety of prompts to create dynamic backgrounds.

Magic Editor in Google Photos allows users to manipulate objects within a photo by tapping or circling them, then repositioning or resizing them. Additionally, contextual suggestions improve lighting and background in photos.

Gemini, Google’s AI agent, can be accessed with a tap on the home screen of the new Chromebook Plus. Google is also offering new Chromebook Plus users a 12-month free trial of its advanced Google One AI Premium plan, which includes access to Gemini Advanced, 2TB of storage, and AI integration in Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, and more.

Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, noted that this move signifies Google’s commitment to AI, positioning itself against competitors like OpenAI and Microsoft. “Deploying these AI tools on their main platforms, Android and Chromebooks, makes sense as Google continues to develop its AI capabilities,” he said.

A Needed Boost for Chromebooks

Mark N. Vena, president of SmartTech Research, highlighted the need for Google to rejuvenate the Chromebook category, which has become outdated. “Chromebook Plus laptops are a step forward, but the Microsoft/Qualcomm approach might have an edge,” he added. Microsoft recently announced its Copilot+ laptops with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, featuring powerful neural processing units (NPUs) for optimized AI performance.

Vena explained that while Chromebooks rely on cloud computing, Microsoft and Qualcomm’s strategy involves embedding AI capabilities into their chips, allowing for local AI processing without needing an internet connection. This approach also enhances security, as local processing reduces dependency on cloud security measures.

Unprecedented AI Integration

Rubin pointed out that Google’s new features do not yet match Microsoft’s Recall feature in Copilot+ laptops, which allows users to retrieve information via natural language and contextual search. However, he acknowledged that the Chromebook Plus showcases Google’s ability to leverage AI without requiring the latest hardware.

“Chromebook Plus integrates various Google products, showing a notable breadth of AI applications,” Rubin said. The new Acer Chromebook Plus models, priced at $749.99 for the Spin 714 and $699.99 for the 516 GE gaming model, demonstrate the flexibility and power of the ChromeOS ecosystem.

Future Features and AI Enhancements

Google also teased upcoming features for Chromebook Plus:

  • Help Me Read with Gemini: Summarizes websites or PDFs using a right-click.
  • Continuity Features: Allows users to pick up where they left off across windows, tabs, and apps.
  • Focus Mode: Helps users concentrate by setting a focus time, Google Task, and YouTube Music playlist, while enabling Do Not Disturb.
  • AI-Powered Hands-Free Control: Utilizes face and gesture tracking for hands-free operation.

Rob Enderle, president of the Enderle Group, remarked on the potential quality issues both Copilot and Gemini might face, urging improvements to maintain market interest in these AI-driven devices.

Overall, Google’s integration of AI features into Chromebook Plus models aims to enhance user experience and position the company as a leader in the AI and tech industry.

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