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Chrome laptop to sell for US$249

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google is dangling a low-priced laptop computer in front of consumers as rivals Microsoft and Apple prepare to release their latest gadgets.

The lightweight computer unveiled Thursday will sell for US$249 and is being made in a partnership with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which also makes smartphones and tablet computers that run on Google's Android software.

The laptop will run on an operating system revolving around Google's Chrome Web browser.

Like other so-called Chromebooks, this laptop doesn't have a hard drive. It functions like a terminal dependent on an Internet connection to get to information and applications stored in large data centers run by Google Inc. or other technology providers.

It's the least expensive Chromebook that Google has released in the two years that it has been working on the product line. Google and Samsung released a slightly more sophisticated Chromebook priced at US$449 in the late spring.

The lower-priced model will go on sale early next week in more than 500 Best Buy stores in the U.S., as well as on various websites. Google hopes to begin accepting online orders at its Play store by this weekend.

Google Inc. appears to be trying to beat Microsoft and Apple to the punch with the discount Chromebook.

Microsoft Corp. is poised to release Windows 8, a dramatic makeover of its famous operating system, on Oct. 26. The long-awaited makeover is designed to run on touch-based tablets, as well as laptop and desktop computers. A variety of manufacturers will be selling a hodgepodge of Windows 8-powered personal computers and tablets. The prices of most of those machines, including a tablet made by Microsoft, will range from US$500 to US$1,000.

Apple Inc. says it plans to show off a new product Tuesday. The event is widely expected to be the coming-out party for a slightly smaller version of its hot-selling iPad.

The mini iPad is expected to feature a 7.85-inch (19.94-centimeter) screen compared to the nearly 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) screen of the pioneering iPad. Industry analysts expect Apple to price a smaller iPad in the US$249 to US$299 range in an effort to siphon sales away from other scaled-down tablets, such as Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire.

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