Neowin reports an intriguing rumor: When the first batch of Google’s Chrome OS notebooks launch in June or July, customers will be able to lease them for $10 to $20 per month.
The Chrome OS subscription, as Neowin calls it, would entitle the user to free hardware upgrades, as well as replacement units if anything goes wrong. Full-priced laptops would also be available, and the Chrome OS notebooks would reportedly be distributed “in a fashion similar to the way Android is distributed,” which I assume means through wireless carriers and retail stores.
Neowin’s report is based on a single, unnamed source, and it’s wacky enough to consider with an ounce of skepticism. But it’s also rather plausible.
The strength of Chrome OS, an entirely web-based operating system, is its hardware independence. If something goes wrong, or the user decides to get a new computer, Chrome OS allows the user to replace hardware without having to transfer data. A subscription model would encourage that behavior. Also, remember that Verizon plans to give each Chrome OS user 100 MB of monthly data to play with. A subscription model would keep some revenue flowing into the carrier’s pockets, and make upgrading to a bigger data plan easier.
A leased laptop would also help answer one of the biggest questions dogging Chrome OS: Why would you use it instead of another operating system with Chrome installed? Getting a laptop for the cost of dinner at Applebee’s could be quite the lure.
Still, this rumor raises a few questions of its own: Would the leased laptop require a long-term contract? If not, would it become a brick if the user stopped paying? What would happen if the user wanted to trade in for a different screen size (or tablet)? Would the notebooks be new, or would it be possible to end up with a pre-owned machine? And what happened to that rumor about a $250 Chrome OS notebook from Asus?
The answers can’t be more than a couple months away. If there’s anything to this rumor, it’ll be a pretty big deal.