Google's newest computer is about the size of an inhaler and could easily be mistaken for one were it not for its Chrome branding. It's called the Chromebit and it will be one of the smallest computers on the market when it ships this summer.
Manufactured by ASUS in partnership with Google, Chromebit is essentially a miniaturized Chromebook freed of its laptop trappings. It doesn't have a display. Or a keyboard. Or a battery. But plug it into a monitor via DisplayPort or USB, and pair it with a keyboard and it will give you the full Chrome OS experience.
It's hard to overstate just how tiny the Chromebit is. Just an inch or so longer than your average USB drive, it's hard to believe it's a functional computer. But with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a Rockchip 3288 processor, and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it is — albeit a new breed of one, for which mobility and portability are key selling points.
For Google, which is looking to make Chrome OS ubiquitous, the Chromebit presents a compelling value proposition to consumers looking for a cheap, portable computing solution that doesn't involve a laptop or tablet. Designed to work anywhere there's already a screen and a keyboard, the device has use cases that encompass everything from internet cafes to grandparents-in-need-of-a-modern-operating-system to hotel receptionists. And with a price point expected to come in below $100, Chromebit will likely be appeal to an education market already enamored with its Chromebook sibling. Certainly it seems an inexpensive way for cash-strapped schools to upgrade antiquated computer labs.
But is it a worthwhile one? Perhaps — assuming the device delivers on Google's promise of the full Chrome OS experience and doesn't undermine it with performance limitations associated with its diminutive form factor. We'll find out, when Chromebit arrives at market this summer.