Acer Polishing Chromebooks for the Channel

Acer released its Google Chromebook ultrabooks to online and direct market retailers for consumer sales. While the Chrome-powered devices aren't yet available to solution providers for business-to-business sales, Acer says there’s growing interest in the channel for these Microsoft Windows alternatives.

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Acer Inc. took a big step in its Google Chromebooks market expansion by releasing the ultrabooks to online and direct-market resellers just as the holiday shopping season gets underway. The PC maker hopes to capture rising demand for low-cost, functional computing devices.

Acer and Samsung are the only two PC manufacturers offering a device running the Google operating system. Until recently, the lightweight devices were only available through Google and the manufacturer’s Web stores and through select retail stores, such as Best Buy.

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The expansion means online consumer and DMRs such as TigerDirect, NewEgg and Staples.com will now offer Acer Chromebooks for as little as $199.

"Our customers' enthusiastic response to the Acer C7 Chromebook has encouraged more of our e-tail partners to make them available for purchase online -- just in time for anyone looking for a great holiday gift for a loved one or yourself," said Scott Ledterman, vice president of retail, Acer America. "The extra low price of only $199 is so affordable that customers can even buy them as stocking stuffers for multiple people on their shopping list."

Selling through these online resellers may be an important step toward evolving the Chromebook model to the B2B channel. Since the release of Chrome and the first Chromebooks in June 2011, Google has avoided if and how it will release Chromebooks to its resellers and channel partners. Acer and Samsung have also dodged the issue, following Google with a consumer-first strategy.

Acer tells Channelnomics it’s not offering Chromebooks to VARs and solution providers. However, a spokesperson said there's increasing interest and demand among resellers and business customers for the device. Demand is particularly acute in the education segment, she said.

Holding Chromebooks back in the workplace is the lack of applications. Chrome is a decent operating system built to support Web-enabled devices and activities. It doesn't have the plethora of productivity and business applications supported by Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or Apple Inc.'s Mac OS.

The Acer Chromebook price is too good to pass up for many users. As Ledterman says, it’s cheap enough that it can be used as stocking stuffer. Perhaps, it’s also good for workplaces and organizations that don't need the fastest PCs, but rather disposable devices. Schools fit that description: Students abuse, misuse and lose PCs all the time.

This is particularly bad news for Microsoft, which is seeing its Windows market share erode to alternative devices and operating systems, such as iPad and Android tablets. The availability of a thick-client oOS that supports a conventional PC will give consumers and businesses a new option. At the least, Chrome and the Chromebook devices will pressure Microsoft to respond with lower prices or competitive offerings.

Interest in Chromebooks will increase as the application library expands and users find broader wireless Internet access while mobile. Some of these devices will find their way into the workplace through the bring-your-own-device trend. It’s only a matter of time before Acer, Google and perhaps Samsung introduce a professional version of Chrome to the channel.

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