Google has announced a new Chromebook that's pitched as a low-cost, hassle-free computing solution for everyone from kids to elders. Priced at only $249 (£229 in the UK), Google says the Samsung XE303C12 represents the culmination of its Chromebook initiative, providing an affordable, easy-to-use machine for everyday tasks.

"This gets to the heart of the Chromebook vision. In order to have one, two or more computers around the house, they need to be easy to use and much more affordable," Google said. "There's no need to worry about security updates and maintenance is easy; all you need to do is charge the battery. It just works," the company continued.

The emphasis on ease of use is interesting because we don't recall Google harping so intently on that fact before, which leads one to question whether the company is appealing to folks who are discouraged by Windows 8. Microsoft's latest OS is due next week and many have criticized its new Start interface for having a steep learning curve. For users who only need basic features, the new Chromebook may offer a compelling alternative to the wave of $800-$1,000+ Windows 8 ultrabooks expected to hit shelves in the coming months.

Spec-wise, the Samsung XE303C13 isn't particularly impressive, but it doesn't have to be. It shouldn't take much horsepower to run Chrome OS and various cloud-based applications. The system packs an 11.6-inch 1366x768 display, a dual-core Samsung Exynos 5250 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 16GB SSD along with 100GB of free cloud storage. Connectivity includes one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 port, an HDMI output, an SD memory card slot, a headphone/microphone combo jack as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.

At about 0.8in (17.5mm) thick and 2.43lbs (1.1kg), the new Chromebook is competitively sized with most ultrabooks, and despite its ARM-based processor, Google promises snappy performance including sub-10-second boot ups, instant resumes and the ability to play 1080p videos. The system can also run for over 6.5 hours, depending on usage conditions, which is about on par with many cheaper ultrabooks. Preorders are open today and Google plans to sell the XE303C13 at over 500 Best Buy locations in the US.