Google gave the world a first look at its new Chrome OS laptop Tuesday and according to CEO Eric Schmidt it’s very much like the Network Computer devices that he was pitching while chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems 13 years ago, reports PCWorld. Only this time around, the idea will actually catch on, Schmidt said. The difference, Schmidt said, is that the web-based development tools used to build programs for Chrome OS have had had years to mature. “Our instincts were right… but we didn’t have the tools,” he said of the computer industry’s failure to make lightweight computers that could compete with Microsoft Windows in the enterprise. Google thinks that web applications are finally ready to displace Microsoft’s hegemony and businesses will buy computers that can’t run programs such as Word or Excel.

“I think there’s every reason to believe that when you go back and you look at history, not only is this the right time to build these products, but because they work and they work at scale, they’ll be very successful,” Schmidt said. Google didn’t say if or when it was going to start selling its own lightweight laptops. But the company did offer a sneak peak at a completely black, unbranded notebook, running the Chrome OS, that it’s shipping out to developers and a limited number of lucky consumers…

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staff and wire services reports