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Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2015 3pm

#NewTech: The Google Chrome Bit: Just what exactly is it?

Search giant Google and Taiwanese laptop major Asus this week unveiled the Google Chromebit, a "computer on a stick" which can plug into a display to turn it into a PC.

Google said in a blog post that the Asus Chromebit would be arriving mid-year with a low price tag. 

"Smaller than a candy bar, the Chromebit is a full computer that will be available for less than $100," Google said.

"By simply plugging this device into any display, you can turn it into a computer. It's the perfect upgrade for an existing desktop and will be really useful for schools and businesses."

But what exactly is the Chromebit?

The device is similar to the Google Chromecast — the digital stick that plugs into your television and streams video from the internet — but it does more.

Google pitches it as something that lets you walk up to any LCD display and instantly transform it into a computer, whether it’s sitting on a desk in a classroom, mounted on the wall in an office conference room, or hanging above the checkout counter in a retail store or fast food joint.

The device is part of a new wave of machines that use Chrome OS. 

Based on the Google Chrome web browser, the OS is designed for use with internet-based applications such as Gmail and the Google Docs word processor, reducing our dependence on the bulky local software that traditionally runs on PCs, moving tasks onto a cheaper breed of hardware as a result, and, improving security.

Over the past several years, Google has pushed its Chromebook laptops and other Chrome OS machines into schools and, to a lesser extent, government agencies and businesses.

Now, with several new devices, including a fresh crop of laptops as well as the Chromebit, the company is renewing this push, continuing to challenge Microsoft for control of the business and educational software markets.

The Chromebit idea has been around for some time continuing a trend that allows streaming on regular TV’s.  With tiny, inexpensive sticks, you can transform older televisions into so-called smart TVs, streaming movies and shows from internet services such as YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.

But they’re also mini-PCs. 

Equipped with much the same hardware as a Chromebook laptop the Chromebit is more powerful than a Chromecast, which just means it’s better at running more applications.

Google believes the devices — equipped with an HDMI port — will provide a way of quickly upgrading existing PCs. 

Among the problems that come along with a device of this nature and which Google have addressed are the utility of a keyboard and mouse – Chromebit offers USB and Bluetooth connections for both; it has also created versions of tools such as Google Docs and Gmail that work offline.

The Chromebit is yet another step down a road that will ultimately lead to the complete breakdown of the PC and laptop as we know it – the line between traditional devices, smartphones and tablets is disintegrating.

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