SAN FRANCISCO - Laptop computers using Google's Chrome operating system will go on sale in June, as the world's No. 1 Internet search engine challenges Microsoft Corp and Apple on their home turf.
The new Web-centric PCs, made by Samsung and Acer Inc, are Google's latest attempt to change how consumers and companies use their computers.
The bare-bones operating system is essentially a web browser that steers users to use applications like email and spreadsheets directly on the web, instead of storing software such as Outlook or Word directly on PCs.
Moving day-to-day functions onto the Internet removes the burden of time-consuming tasks associated with traditional PCs, like installing software and updates, backing up files and running antivirus checks, executives said.
"The complexity of managing your computer is torturing users," Google cofounder Sergey Brin told reporters. "It's a flawed model fundamentally. Chromebooks are a new model that doesn't put the burden of managing your computer on yourself."
In another move encouraging people to move their computing off their PCs and onto "the cloud," Google on Tuesday launched an online music locker service letting users store and listen to their songs wherever they are.
For nearly two years Google has touted Chrome as an alternative to Microsoft Windows, which is used on more than 90 percent of the world's PCs, but faced delays launching laptops designed to use the software.
Meanwhile, the exploding market for smartphones and tablets using Google's Android operating system has quickly taken center stage for the Internet heavyweight, and some observers say Google should reconcile or merge the two.
"Our goal is to focus on the users and bring the best forward. Wherever we can share (technology with Android) we will share," said Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President of Chrome. "But the final expressions are two different visions."
As with Android, Chrome software will be free, but is expected to spur people to use the Internet more often and search for more things, potentially boosting Google's Internet ads business.
The operating system and "Chromebook" PCs expand on Google's web browser, also called Chrome, that competes against Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
The laptops, using processors made by Intel, will be available for order on Amazon.com and Best Buy's online store on June 15.
The Mountain View, California company will also offer businesses its Chromebooks, along with technical support, as a hassle-free solution for $28 a month.
Google is competing fiercely against Apple to win consumers in the mobile market, with sales of Android-based phones recently overtaking iPhones but with its own tablets far behind Apple's iPad.
Google kicked off its annual developers forum on Tuesday with an image of its Android robot eating an apple, a shot at its Cupertino, California rival.
Also on Tuesday, Microsoft said it would buy popular Internet phone service Skype for $8.5 billion, beating out bids by Google and Facebook and highlighting its need to gain new customers for Windows as more consumers turn from PCs to mobile gadgets.
Shares of Google were down 1.57 percent at $534.12.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Maureen Bavdek, Bernard Orr)