Google ends Cr-48 Chrome OS beta programme

Google's supplies of its Cr-48 Chrome OS-based netbooks have been fully exhausted, but the company promises that partner devices will be out within the next few months.

"Sorry, we have shipped all units for now," Google's Sundar Pichai has told those still interested in the devices. "Thank you for your interest, and we will have partner devices out mid-year."

The US-only pilot programme for the first official Chrome OS-based device launched late last year, offering business users, end users, educational establishments, and developers the chance to try Google's cloud-based operating system before its official launch on a free 12.1-inch netbook-style device.

The device packed a full-size keyboard, integrated 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, a larger-than-usual trackpad, and an eight-hour battery life into the device - but left some traditional items off the menu, with a keyboard that fails to include function keys or even a caps lock key.

The company's beta programme has, it claims, been a success - and Google developers are now working with as-yet unnamed partner companies to produce commercial devices to launch some time in 1H 2011.

The key feature that will tie these devices together will be 3G networking: as a cloud-based platform - Chrome OS is useless without an Internet connection. Because the devices will need always-on connectivity, it's more than likely that Google and its hardware partners will be joining forces with mobile operators to provide subsidised versions with monthly data contracts.