Google confirmed at its I/O developer conference Wednesday that it will lease Chrome laptops to schools and businesses.

The program, called Chromebooks for Business & Education allows businesses and educational institutions to pay Google a monthly fee in exchange for a supported, updated Chromebook. Business users will pay $28 a month for each Chromebook and educational institutions will pay $20 a month per unit.

Here are the details of the subscription plan as we know them now:

Schools and businesses will order their Chromebook units directly from Google at, beginning June 15, 2011.
Google will cover phone, email and hardware replacement for Chromebook Business & Education users.
IT managers can use virtualization platforms like Citrix to offer access to non-web apps, essentially making the Chromebook a thin client on steroids.
Administrators have various management options for configuring and monitoring lots of different units.

Although the potential for education sales is vast — especially at the $240-a-year price point — we think the bigger play for Google is in the business space.

Google has actively courted small, medium and even large businesses to migrate to Google Apps for email, cloud-based document management/creation and file access. The company has successfully wooed some high-profile customers — especially in regards to email — but Google still trails enterprise giants like Microsoft, Novell, Oracle and IBM.

If the Chromebook subscription offering works, it could really make Google a big player in this space. Of course, that is a big “if.” The promise of thin clients and network computers are nearly as old as the web itself. The Chromebook may be the best implementation of Larry Ellison’s vision to date.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, that’s for sure.

Check out this video Google put together explaining the Chromebook for Business & Education:

Would you be willing to pay a monthly fee to “rent” a Chromebook?