This week brought a slew of new announcements from top hardware makers who are introducing new low priced and ever more functional Chromebooks. Portable computers based on Google's Chrome OS had found their niche in schools already, but it's clear that hardware makers ranging from Dell to Lenovo to Asus want to win over consumers and businesses with Chromebooks, too.

Part of what's driving Chromebooks forward is that Google is on a rapid release cycle with Chrome OS. And, very importantly, Google has relaxed the fiercely cloud-centric vision it originally had for Chrome OS, so that applications for Chromebooks can be used offline.

You can now get Chromebooks that will let you open and edit Word and Excel files, and Google's Chrome Apps store now calls out applications that you can use offline. While you still can't get some coveted software found on PCs and Macs, such as Photoshop, you can edit videos, play games and more on Chromebooks.
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