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Living in the cloud: Google launches a top-end Chromebook

Not only reassuringly expensive (at US$1,299) but combining keyboard and touch-screen, Google says the Pixel is a computer for the power user who (already?) lives in the cloud. And it also admits that it's a reference machine for other Chromebook/box vendors to measure their own efforts against.

It's called the Pixel and it runs on an Intel Core i5 processor which will mostly be set to driving the screen since this is a Web-only operating system (no native applications). The Pixel is designed to take its power from the cloud via Web apps and a hefty terabyte of cloud storage for all the user's movies and music.

So the screen is the important component. It's a (presumably) crystal-clear 239 pixels per inch (ppi), a little bit more resolution than Apple's retina screen (at 220 ppi) and claimed by Google to be the highest resolution "yet shipped on a laptop".

The Pixel clearly takes on Microsoft with the keyboard/tablet combination and touch-sensitive screen, but it's also a pointed dig in the ribs for Apple with its high res screen, upmarket positioning, and its (reportedly) careful and stylish build quality and device speed. Google is also offering an LTE-armed version at US$1,499.

To make the Pixel even more attractive to the power user (living in the cloud) Google says it will integrate Quickoffice (recently bought by Google) into both Chrome browser and Chrome OS so that power users who haven't 'quite' completed their journey into the cloud can still fire up and work on their Word and Excel documents.

This announcement appears to be another sign that Google is happy that Chrome OS is making progress. As with Android, Google is building a (dread word) ecosystem and is starting to expand with new licensed vendors - in addition to Samsung and Acer, HP recently launched its Pavilion Chromebook and Lenovo is readying a ruggedised Chromebook.

The Pixel is a marker for Google's ultimate ambition - to build a platform that can perform well at both the cheap and cheerful and slick and expensive ends of the market. The hands-on reviews and the early sales (from Google's Play store) for the Pixel will be interesting.

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