Google’s taking Chromebooks on a road show to colleges across the country

Google thinks the Chromebook is a good fit for educational purposes. But while the capable web-based laptops are making inroads into elementary and high schools, higher education is still dominated by Apple and its MacBook. So Google plans to set up installations at colleges across the country, called Chromebook Lending Libraries, which lets students check out the platform with a Chromebook on loan.

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 1.38.07 PM

The [company]Google[/company] program will hit 12 U.S. colleges, all public schools except for George Washington University, which is private (and arguably the most expensive college in the country.) A full list can be found here and Google is promising to add other schools. Each school will get three days with the Chromebook stand, which will distribute free laptops on loan on a first-come, first-serve basis. It looks like Google will be loaning one of the new Acer Chromebook 13 models to students.

It’s a great time to introduce ChromeOS to new prospective customers. In the past few months alone, Chromebooks have received the ability to run some Android apps, shed their underpowered reputation with both new Intel and Nvidia chips, gained the ability to transfer files to and from Android, and added pinch-to-zoom touchscreen support, among other features and improvements.

Consumer preferences forged at college often stick with a student for years after he or she graduates, which means that Google is targeting consumers right at the moment where they can become lifelong ChromeOS users.

For instance, when I headed to college, I got my first MacBook, and I’ve been an OS X devotee ever since. A key difference between Chromebooks and OS X isn’t capability, but price. After all, you can pound out a last-minute essay and surf Reddit on both platforms equally well. But a Chromebook usually costs about a third of the price of a MacBook if not less, which leaves more money for the school supplies a student actually needs, such as textbooks or beer.