Apple may have invented the tablet computer that now threatens the existence of the PC, but it’s Google, with the help of a variety of hardware manufacturers, that wants to finish off the PC for good.

Today, Google announced a new $199 PC that’s the latest and cheapest in a line of machines that run the Chrome operating system (OS). Unlike Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s OS X, Chrome OS hardly deserves to be called an OS; it basically consists of a web browser and not much else. The idea behind a Chromebook, as they’re called, is that you do everything through a web browser, using the growing array of web-based apps that have been built to do word-processing, photo-editing and just about anything else you might want to use a computer for. By moving 100% of your computing to the web, you are no longer tied to any one computer. And because everything you use and store is in the cloud, software need never be updated, and, absent a snafu on Google’s end, data can never be lost.

The new Chromebook is manufactured by Acer, the Taiwan-based manufacturer better known for laptops that run Windows. But here’s the funny thing about it: In many ways it’s inferior to its cousin, an even more web-centric device announced in October, known as the Samsung Chromebook.
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--jeremy