3 min

Google is beefing up its Chromebook Plus line with a host of new AI features.

Chromebook Plus was introduced last October as a premium, AI-powered line of (otherwise fairly inexpensive) Chromebooks. ChromeOS debuted on the Plus line with AI features to eliminate noise in the webcam image, but its ambitions were much more ambitious. The goal was to achieve a full-fledged AI assistant on ChromeOS. A more concrete step toward that ideal has just been taken.

Built-in AI, no NPU needed

The new features are quite diverse. The most prominent is ‘Help Me Write’. AI functionality can improve highlighted text, give it a different intonation, or summarize it. Thus, the tool recognizes whether adopting a more professional tone within the context of the email in question might be useful.

Second, Google now offers Magic Editor for Google Photos, exclusive to Chromebook Plus. This allows users to edit photos with AI assistance. For example, Magic Editor removes unwanted people in the background and can delete an awkwardly placed finger in the corner of the photo. John Maletis, VP of ChromeOS, stressed that it is the first such feature to run within a desktop OS.

Interestingly, the requirements for these AI features do not include any specific system requirements aside from the frugal specs that Google asks for to earn a Chromebook Plus designation. So, unlike Microsoft’s Copilot and Copilot+ products, which are called ‘AI PCs,’ no NPU is involved.

There are also generative AI wallpapers and backgrounds for video calls, which range from quirky to professional.

Tip: These major computer brands have already announced their own Copilot+ pc’s

Rebuttal of the AI frenzy

Recently, TSMC CEO C.C. Wei joked that you might as well throw away a PC if it doesn’t have an ‘AI PC’ sticker on it. Maletis wants to prove just the opposite: the optimizations regarding AI workloads “scale on any Chromebook Plus.” In short: even an older Intel Core i3 without an NPU can get by with Google’s Help Me Write and image editing.

This while the functionality works at the OS level. Thus, no app needs to support AI functions to still run Help Me Write. So no matter if you type a WhatsApp message, Google Docs file or Slack message, Google’s AI can work with it.

AI that’s been bought and paid for

Also, every Chromebook Plus now includes the Gemini app. This allows users to have ‘deep’ conversations about their daily schedule, work, or creative ideas. Those who purchase a Chromebook Plus also get 12 months of free access to Google One AI Premium, which normally costs 18.99 dollar monthly. This makes the functionality basically included in the price of a Chromebook Plus, although models are already available from 349 dollar—European prices have not yet been shared.

This premium package includes Gemini Advanced, Gemini for Workspace and 2TB of online storage. Users can work with Gemini 1.5 Pro, famed for its giant context windows of 1 million tokens. Specifically, this means you can feed the model very long documents, which can then consider all the information provided. Maletis suggests querying documents so no one has to search for a specific passage anymore.

Also read: Gemini 1.5 is much more than a new foundation model

Maletis and co ended by looking at the future. The AI feature ‘Where Was I’ will allow you to return to an old snapshot of the desktop and opened apps. Furthermore, Help Me Write will expand to ‘Help me read & understand,’ where the AI assistance can adapt within a given context. For example, when the user looks at educational material, the AI function behaves like a teacher.

Other options mainly expand Chromebooks’ accessibility. Live transcription and live translation promise exactly what they deliver, while ChromeOS can eventually work with facial expressions and voice control.