Google Takes on Apple in laptops: New Chromebook connects like a MacBook

Google Chromebook Pixel laptop.

Google Chromebook Pixel laptop.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Google announced a new Chromebook Pixel laptop on Wednesday, only two days after Apple unveiled its new 12-inch MacBook

It’s unusual for Apple and Google to go head to head in laptops since Google is not primarily a hardware company. But Google’s new Pixel laptop is as much a technology statement for its Chrome operating system as Apple’s new MacBook is for its OS X.

And Google’s laptop – an update to the first Pixel released about two years ago – packs the same new connector technology as the MacBook, referred to as USB-C.   The Pixel has two USB-C connectors compared to Apple’s more spartan design, which has just one.  What makes the new USB connector technology important is that it allows hardware companies to build thinner laptops, can double as a charging port, and pushes data around much faster than previous USB connectors. 

“It’s small enough to work with smartphones, powerful enough to charge computers, and conveniently symmetrical (no more guessing which side is up!),” according to a blog post by Andrew Bowers, director of consumer hardware at Google.

Other features that Google is touting include the latest, fifth generation, Intel Core processor, a high-resolution (2,560 x 1,700) 12.85-inch touch display, and up to 12 hours of battery life – not unlike the specs that Apple touted on Monday (Apple’s new MacBook has a high-res display and claims all-day battery life.)

In addition to the standard model, Google is offering what it calls an LS version (LS stands for "Ludicrous Speed") “that's even faster,” Bowers wrote.  

Most importantly, though, Pixel runs the Chrome operating system.

That’s an Android-like OS for laptops that is built around Google’s Chrome browser.  Google is now working to make the Chrome OS more like its popular Android operating system by bringing more Android apps to Chrome. 

Chrome OS sets itself apart from other laptop OSes by operating mostly in the cloud. Just think Google Drive, Google Docs, or Gmail.  That means it requires an Internet connection for most tasks but bootup is almost instantaneous and the OS does automatic updates, backups, and virus protection in the background.

The new Pixel is 0.6-inches thick and weighs 3.3 pounds.  It is available for purchase now in the U.S. on the new Google Store for $999 and $1,299 for the LS version.