Samsung's Exynos 5-based Chromebook may have been available since last October, but how about one equipped with WiMAX radio? Graced with the presence of Google and Samsung reps in Kuala Lumpur (including a video message from Google SVP Sundar Pichai), today Malaysian carrier Yes 4G unveiled this rather special laptop for the local consumers. In fact, we should have seen this coming as Google's official blog did hint this last month, but we failed to catch that blurred "Yes 4G" logo on the laptop in the blog's photo.
As Google mentioned, the ultimate goal here is to help transform Malaysia's education using the Chromebook. And now we know that this ambition will be backed by Yes 4G's rapidly growing WiMAX network -- from the initial 1,200 base stations in 2010 to today's 4,000, covering 85 percent of the peninsula; and the carrier will expand into the eastern side with 700 more sites by the end of this year. This is especially important for the rural areas, where many schools still lack access to water and electricity. As a partner of the Malaysian Ministry of Education's 1BestariNet project, Yes 4G's parent company YTL Communications has so far ensured that 7,000 local state schools are covered by its WiMAX network, with the remaining 3,000 to be connected over the next six months.
Malaysia's Yes 4G adds WiMAX to Samsung Chromebook, aims to transform local education
In addition to strengthening the coverage, YTL Communications has also enlisted UK's Frog to bring the latter's virtual learning environment (VLE) to the cloud. This allows students, teachers and even parents to collaborate, with the social element expected to provide much needed support to lone teachers in remote locations. The dashboard feature also lets adults monitor the students' performance and activity. Just to top things off, the Frog VLE is available to 1BestariNet users with free unlimited access.
Google's Pichai is certainly impressed with the whole 1BestariNet project. "I think what's happening in Malaysia can be a role model for other countries," said the exec in his video message. And of course, this also serves as a warning message to Microsoft, who's been a strategic partner of the Ministry of Education for some time.
The Yes 4G service was launched by YTL Communications in November 2010. It's the baby of CEO Wing Lee, a charismatic Hong Konger who's spent 15 years at Sprint, followed by an eight-month stint at Clearwire before taking up his current role at YTL in September 2009. Lee told us that since Yes 4G was built with WiMAX from day one with no need for 2G or 3G fallback, the flat network has also allowed his team to converge mobile broadband, mobile telephony and cloud-based services into one package called the Yes ID.
The Yes ID -- in the form of TKTK@yes.my -- is effectively platform and network-agnostic, and it's also tied to a Malaysian number (but 1BestariNet IDs aren't). Better yet, Yes 4G has also created an online portal called Yes Life that gives you full access to voice call and text messaging. So even if you don't have a WiMAX-enabled device -- like Yes 4G's very own Eclipse Android phone -- with you, you can still make or receive phones calls at local rate through a browser or the Yes Life app for the iPad. This is particularly handy for when you're abroad: just imagine picking up a call from Malaysia on your laptop! What's funnier is that if you have multiple devices logged into your Yes account, all of them will ring when you get an incoming call.
While many countries have adopted LTE instead of WiMAX, Lee insisted that the former is still not fully mature. Most notably, the exec explained, the former still has a comparatively much higher power requirement, and it also has way too many bands to tinker with. That said, Lee will eventually bring in LTE down the road.
Throughout our half-day experience with the WiMAX-enabled Chromebook, we saw a farily consistent connectivity performance out in the open, with download speed staying at around 15Mbps and upload speed of just under 5Mbps. We've been told that if you go over your package's data limit, you will be throttled down to 120kbps, but you can instantly fix that by purchasing an add-on package at any Yes store or on its website. Also, while reception was understandably weaker indoors, some buildings -- especially those owned by YTL Corporation, the mother company of YTL Communications -- offer Yes 4G WiFi hotspots, which are accessible to all Yes ID users as part of the service.
As to why his company went with Google's Chromebook instead of other options for the education project, Lee said that after seeing so many computer labs at local schools hindered by viruses and stability issues, he was sold by the Chromebook's aspect of cloud computing, "full day" battery life and its low maintenance requirements.
"When we started looking for computing devices that we can introduce to schools, we had a very open mind," said Lee. "We talked to Apple... to understand which way they're heading. We talked to Microsoft, we talked to OLPC, we talked to Google."
The CEO then added that from his team's observation, even schools in Singapore, the UK and the US suffer from similar issues. Things like long boot time, slow updates, performance deterioration and the lack of immediate access to tech support can interrupt his or her rhythm.
"Computer itself needs to get out of the way," said Lee. "Long story short... Chrome turned out to be the only elegant solution that satisfy all the above."
Malaysian consumers can pick up this 16GB Samsung Chromebook for RM988 (about $330, the same as the 3G Chromebook in the US) with a 24-month RM88 ($30) 3.5GB plan, while participants of the 1BestariNet education project can enjoy the same package but with a cheaper tariff at RM69 ($23). Both options come with two years' worth of 100GB Google Drive space for free. Of course, RM988 may still be far from affordable for many schools, but Lee expects the greater demand will soon drive costs down. The CEO also told us to stay tuned for an education-focused announcement some time during the summer, so we shall see.
Yes 4G launches World's First Samsung 4G Chromebook in Malaysia
The Samsung 4G Chromebook has built-in connectivity to Malaysia's largest and widest 4G network, designed to work with Yes IDs
KUALA LUMPUR 22 May 2013 – Yes today launched the world's first Samsung 4G Chromebook. Developed by Google and Samsung, the 4G Chromebook is another game-changing product in Yes' innovative portfolio that enables everyone to live, learn, work and play in a simpler, smarter and lighter way.
"Yes is about driving positive change at a national level by delivering to Malaysia one of the most sophisticated 4G networks in the world. Based on this guiding principle, we have been working tirelessly to build the largest 4G network in Malaysia," said YTL Communications Chief Executive Officer Wing K. Lee. "As a result of our expansive network, many Malaysians already have access to high-speed Internet through our portfolio of innovative devices and services."
"I am really excited about what the Yes network can be do for this country. Everyone can be connected to the cloud anywhere and anytime. The Samsung 4G Chromebook is the perfect device to use on our network. It brings the power of computing to everyone, ushering in a new era of Cloud Computing," said Tan Sri Dato' (Dr) Francis Yeoh, YTL Group Managing Director.
Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President for Android, Chrome and Google Apps at Google reiterated that he is "particularly excited at the pace at which 4G connectivity is being rolled out throughout the country." He further added, "What's happening in Malaysia can be a role model for many other countries around the world."
The Samsung 4G Chromebook comes with a built-in 4G chipset that enables seamless and always-on Internet. It is designed from the ground up to work with Yes IDs, providing high-speed mobile Internet connectivity of up to 20Mbps on the Yes 4G network. With nationwide 4G coverage, Malaysia is the ideal market to launch the world's first Samsung 4G Chromebook.
The Samsung 4G Chromebook is a new type of computing device, designed by Google, to be fast, simple and safe for everyone to use. It boots in seconds and comes with popular Google apps like YouTube, Gmail and Drive, so users can work and play right out of the box. The Samsung 4G Chromebook also comes with 100GB of Google Drive storage that is free for two years. Unlike other computers, it keeps getting faster over time with seamless updates and built-in virus protection.
Perfect for those on-the-go, the Samsung 4G Chromebook is one of the lightest laptops on the market. It is a mere 17.5 mm thin and weighs just 1.1 kilograms, with a 7-hour battery life.
"Over the past few months, Chromebooks have become a part of everyday life for many people - a computer for the kitchen, for when on-the-go, or for sharing with the family," said Caesar Sengupta, Product Management Director at Google. "Many of you around the world have told us you're eager to get your hands on a Chromebook, so we've been working with our partners to make this possible. Today we're happy to say we're one step closer to making Chromebooks truly 'for everyone' - or rather, 'untuk semua orang'."
The Samsung 4G Chromebook retails at RM988 with a 24-month RM88 postpaid plan which comes with a monthly data quota of 3.5 GB. The device alone retails at RM1299. It is now available at Yes Stores nationwide and its online store, (http://shop.yes.my). The device is also available to 1BestariNet Yes ID holders through the FrogStore at (http://frogstore.my) and at Bestari roadshows nationwide for RM988 with a 24-month RM69 plan which comes with a monthly data quota of 3.5GB.
"The Samsung 4G Chromebook will be a first device for many people. It is affordable, secure and always connected to the Internet. No one will be left out of the Internet age," Lee added.
For more information, visit www.google.com.my/Chromebook or www.yes.my/Chromebook