The PC may be dying, but good luck convincing Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) that the laptop is on the way out.
The world's leading search provider announced yesterday that the number of stores stocking Chromebook notebooks will triple this week. Between Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) beginning to sell the $199 Acer Chromebook yesterday and Staples (NASDAQ: SPLS) carrying Chromebooks from three different manufacturers later this week, it's going to be hard to avoid the line's retail presence.
Chromebook's presence in 2,800 Wal-Mart superstores and 1,500 Staples office supply stores will triple the notebook's availability to 6,600 physical stores.
Microsoft feels as if user familiarity and access to Office and countless other Windows games and software applications make its laptops more than worth the premium. Apple is even higher along on the prestige ladder, but that didn't stop Google from putting out the $1,299 Chromebook Pixel netbook earlier this year that clearly targeted Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Microsoft and Apple taking a nonchalant attitude is paying off for now. Chromebooks have yet to make any serious dent in the market. The bad news for Microsoft and Apple is that the pie itself is shrinking.
Back in April, industry tracker IDC reported that the number of PCs shipped during this year's first quarter plunged 13.9% to 76.3 million from the prior year.
When your back's to the Wal-Mart
Google clearly thinks it has a shot at making a difference at the retail level.
The Staples deal may generate some buzz as the country's leader in office supplies. Staples is stocking Chromebooks months ahead of its two nearest rivals, and once all three chains are carrying the laptops, it's going to make things interesting for corporate America. The uniform presence will validate the platform, especially for businesses that are flocking to more and more cloud-based solutions.
However, the big deal here really is Wal-Mart. The world's largest retailer doesn't stock new $199 laptops. The cheapest new laptop, netbook, or ultrabook on Walmart.com starts at $249. Chromebook is going to stand out when someone comes in looking for the cheapest way to get online.
Shoppers don't go to Wal-Mart to talk up the greeter or embrace the minimalist architecture of exposed beams. They're there to save money, and that's going to make Acer's $199 Chromebook the belle of the bargain-priced ball.
If Chromebook can't make it there, it won't be making it anywhere.
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