The thing about the Chrome laptop is that it will eventually (soon) be very cheap. The Chrome laptop is not a replacement for your MacBook Pro or your Windows 7 laptop. The Chrome laptop is a leapfrog tool, perfect for the people of the emerging world who are currently on mobile phones (having skipped landlines), and will soon be in the market for an affordable computer.
Over the next 40 years, the vast majority of the growth in higher ed will be concentrated in the emerging world - in the B.R.I.C.I.'s (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia) and their neighborhoods. It is in these countries where the important innovations in higher education will also emerge. These countries cannot afford to adopt the current Western rich country model of higher education, as this model is too expensive and will not scale fast enough.
Large campuses that bundle learning, living, and leisure cannot be built fast enough to satisfy the crushing demand for education, and would be too expensive to create anyway. Instead, the people of the emerging world will purchase higher ed as unbundled, distributed, and technologically mediated services. They will learn, and be credentialed, online.
The Chrome laptop and the Android powered mobile devices gives Google a platform in which education can be delivered. The content of YouTube, and the web's vast index of educational resources, provides the raw content. What is needed is an LMS platform and the determination to become, partner with, and purchase purchase education providers.
Whether or not Google seizes this opportunity, (declares that education is the next great industry and that they will be part of this change), is mostly beside the point. The real story is that we are on the verge of the next big shift in high ed, and that this shift will be happen outside of the wealthy world. The Chrome laptop is but a clue, an indication and a data point to what this shift will look like.