Chromebook Availability Expands Amid Sales Questions - InformationWeek

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3/19/2013
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Chromebook Availability Expands Amid Sales Questions

Google made its Chromebook computers available in six more countries Tuesday; precise sales figures remain a mystery.

Google Chromebook Pixel: Visual Tour
Google Chromebook Pixel: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Google has significantly expanded the footprint in which it sells its Chromebook laptops. Beginning Tuesday, the Acer, HP and Samsung Chromebooks will begin rolling out to consumers, educational institutions and enterprises in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. Chromebooks also will be more widely available in the U.S., expanding to more than 1,000 Best Buy stores around the country.

Google says the expansion is due to increased demand for the products. Google claims the Samsung Chromebook has been "at the top of Amazon's best-selling laptop list for 149 days since launch." Further, Google notes that Chromebooks are responsible for more than 10% of laptop sales in Currys and PC World stores in the U.K.

Chromebooks run Google's browser-based operating system. They rely heavily on cloud integration, and remain constantly up-to-date and in-sync across devices.

In the U.S., the Acer C7 sells for $199. It features an 11.6-inch screem with 1366 pixels by 768 pixels, dual-core Intel Celeron processor, HD webcam, and dual-band Wi-Fi. It has a 320 GB optical hard drive in addition to 100 GB of Google Drive cloud storage for two years. It weighs three pounds and offers about four hours of battery life.

[ Wondering what it's like to use a cloud-only laptop? Read Chromebook Pixel: My First Week Living In Cloud. ]

For $50 more, the $249 Samsung Chromebook reduces the weight to 2.4 pounds, improves battery life to 6.5 hours, and switches to the Samsung Exynos 5 Dual processor. It downgrades the webcam to VGA resolution, however, and also loses the optical platter in favor of a 16-GB solid-state hard drive.

Pricing will vary by market.

It appears that the the $1,300 Chromebook Pixel remains available only in the U.S. The Pixel is notable for its integrated touchscreen, dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, high-resolution sreen, and 1 TB of Google Drive cloud storage.

Although Google says demand is to thank for Tuesday's expansion, analysts paint a different picture. Unnamed sources speaking to DigiTimes suggest that as few as 500,000 Chromebooks have been sold so far. It reports that Chromebooks represent less than 1% of the worldwide PC market, and Google's fledgling operating system won't have a significant impact on the industry for several more years.

Certainly the expansion will help Google, as visibility of its Chromebooks in the consumer mind has been severely limited before today. It would behoove Google to offer its Chromebooks at outlets other than Best Buy and its own website, but doubling the number of stores in which Chromebooks are sold is a good start.

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