Google's online Play store will begin selling the Pixel in the U.S. and U.K Thursday, with BestBuy.com expected to take orders today. A hands-on experience with the Pixels also will be available beginning Friday in 10 of Best Buy's retail stores in California, Minnesota, Washington state, Virginia and New York.
Pichai declined to say how many of the lower-priced Chromebooks have been sold, but said the models have ranked as the most popular laptop sold by Amazon.com Inc. for the past four months.
The free online storage is being included with the Pixel to overcome the laptop's lack of a hard drive. Like other Chromebooks, the Pixel functions like a terminal dependent on an Internet connection to get to information and applications stored in large data centers run by Google or other technology providers.
Spurred by the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, Google is betting more people will prefer having data, photos and video stored in remote data centers instead of individual hard drives so the content can be accessed from any Internet-connected device.
Google's expansion into the high-end of the laptop market immerses the Internet search and advertising company more deeply into the business designing and making gadgets.
The company is already a major player in the mobile device market through its Android software. To help promote Android, Google also has designed a line of smartphones and tablets under the Nexus brand. The company also owns smartphone maker Motorola Mobility, which it bought for $12.4 billion last year.
Google's deepening involvement in hardware has ignited speculation that the company might eventually open its own chain of stores to sell its products, just as Apple and Microsoft already do. Pichai didn't address that in a response to a question on that topic at Thursday's event.
Apple and Microsoft already have been hurt by the increased competition from Google. Most smartphones and tablets running on Google's free Android software cost less than Apple's iPhone and iPad, helping to siphon sales away from those devices. Sales of PCs running on Windows also have been sagging during the past year, partly because consumers are relying more on Android devices.
Google says it expects to make a small profit on each Pixel sold, but the company figures to make more money from the online traffic delivered from the machines. Like other Chromebooks, the Pixel is set up to automatically use all of Google's services, including its search engine, Gmail and YouTube video site.