Intel, PC Makers Broaden Support for Chromebooks

Another wave of laptop computers running on Google's Chrome operating system will be hitting stores this summer in the latest challenge to Microsoft's dominant Windows franchise.

The latest line of Chromebooks unveiled Tuesday run on a new generation of faster Intel microprocessors that don't devour as much battery power. The machines will be shipped by major personal computer makers such as Lenovo Group, Acer, Dell, ASUS and Toshiba. They will sell for $300 to $400.

The widening selection of Chromebooks reflects the building momentum for Google Inc.'s attempt to create a compelling alternative to Windows-powered machines and Apple Inc.'s Mac computers.

Intel Corp. and all the PC makers embracing Chromebooks also are longtime Microsoft Corp. partners that helped make Windows so influential and lucrative during the past two decades.

But most of Microsoft's longtime allies have been exploring new avenues amid a two-year decline in PC sales that has been driven by the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets. The technological shift has triggered the slump in PC sales, raising questions about Windows' staying power over the next decade.

Microsoft also alienated some PC makers by releasing its own tablet, Surface, that runs on Windows. Although Surface still hasn't become a hot item, Microsoft's move into the tablet market demonstrated the software makers' willingness to compete against its PC partners.

Intel, perhaps Microsoft's most important partner, has been aggressively expanding beyond Windows. Besides branching into smartphones and wearable technology, Intel also now makes chips for 20 different Chromebook designs, up from just four designs last September.

"We will embrace multiple operating systems," Navin Shenoy, an Intel vice president, said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Google has been gradually trying to overcome early perceptions that Chromebooks are an inferior breed of PCs because they aren't equipped with a hard drive to store data. In most instances, the Chromebooks require an Internet connection...

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