Google is launching its new low-priced Chromebook laptop as rivals Microsoft and Apple prepare to release their latest gadgets.

The lightweight computer will sell in the UK for around £200 and $249 in the US. It will go on sale early next week.

It is being made in a partnership with Samsung, which also makes smartphones and tablet computers that run on Google’s Android software.

The laptop, which does not have a hard drive, will run on an operating system revolving around Google’s Chrome Web browser.

It functions like a terminal dependent on an Internet connection to get to information and applications stored in large data centres run by Google or other technology providers.

It is the least expensive Chromebook that Google has released in the two years that it has been working on the product line.

Google and Samsung released a slightly more sophisticated Chromebook priced at $449 (£280) in the late spring.

Now it appears to be trying to get ahead of its rivals.

Microsoft is poised to release Windows 8, a dramatic makeover of its famous operating system, on October 26.

And Apple says it plans to show off a new product Tuesday. The event is widely expected to be the coming-out party for a slightly smaller version of its iPad.

“This is a big step in the journey for us,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of Chrome and apps. “I think it’s generally an exciting time in the computing industry.”

Despite the low price, the new Chromebook will face a tough time winning over consumers because it is notset up like a traditional PC with a hard drive, said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.

“A lot of people are going to see it and think, ‘Once I have it, what exactly do I do with it?'” Milanesi predicted.

Like tablets, the discount Chromebook will rely on a computer chip design known as ARM, instead of Intel microprocessors. The ARM architecture is more energy efficient, extending the duration of batteries between charges.

With an 11.6in (29.46cm) screen, the new Chromebooks also will have a larger display than tablets selling in the same price range.

The laptops will be set up to automatically use all of Google’s services, including its search engine, Gmail and YouTube video site.

Google also is offering 100 gigabytes of free storage on computers kept in its eight data centres.