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Google's new Chromebooks pick a school yard fight with Microsoft, Apple

With help from Acer, Asus and other partners, Google has created a new breed of low-cost, rugged pen-enabled convertible laptops for education.

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New Chromebooks made for education from Acer, Asus and other Google partners are headed to market.

Google

Google just made it a no-brainer for school districts to kick Apple and Microsoft to the curb.

At the education technology conference Bett, the search giant announced two new Chromebooks from Acer and Asus that basically offer low-cost, secure alternatives to iPads and Windows notebooks in one device.

Google has been pushing hard into the education market for the past few years with software and services as well as with its Chromebook laptops and other hardware running on the company's Chrome web-based operating system. Chromebooks are attractive for their affordable pricing, simplicity and shareability, but they typically don't offer the same level of interactivity as an iPad or the durability of some Windows systems.

The two new Chromebook models -- the Acer Chromebook Spin 11 and the Asus Chromebook C213 -- are convertible laptops that can be used as tablets, as traditional notebooks, or in tent or display positions. Both are built to military standards for drops with the Acer featuring a spill-resistant keyboard and touchpad and the Asus, a modular design for easy onsite repairs.

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Both Chromebooks include a low-cost, battery-free stylus made to feel like a No. 2 pencil.

Google

Along with the sturdy construction, the Chromebooks have three key features. One is the included stylus, which Google said is inexpensive, doesn't require charging and doesn't need to be paired before use. Wacom EMR (electromagnetic resonance) technology and the stylus will let students write, draw and erase directly on the screen with little lag.

Each has a world-facing camera. Along with a camera above the screen, there is one also above the keyboard deck so that when they're in tablet mode students can use it to capture photos and video with the screen as the viewfinder. Lastly, they both charge off of USB-C, so there's no need to keep track of a specific power adapter.

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Tent mode for easier app use for groups or in tight spaces.

Google

What's really going to drive sales, though, is the addition of Android apps. Up until late last year, Chromebooks were limited to using web apps. For 2017, though, all Chromebooks will be able to run apps from the Google Play store, which will allow students to use the systems whether or not they have an internet connection.

Adobe is even making a suite of Creative Cloud apps optimized for Chromebooks, including Photoshop Mix, Lightroom Mobile, Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Comp CC and Creative Cloud Mobile. Google said it worked with other app developers as well to make sure apps scale properly for larger displays such as the 11-inch touchscreens on these two models.

I really want one of these for my kids, but unfortunately for now they are only available to education and commercial buyers. However, although these new Chromebooks won't start rolling out until late spring (in time for the following school year), the Android apps will begin to arrive for this list of managed Chromebooks starting this month. And if you don't like these, Google said HP, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung will have options, too.