Google has announced that Chromebooks will soon be available in 6,600 stores around the world. That’s about three times the number of stores that currently offer laptops running Google’s Chrome OS software.
Up until now you’ve been able to buy the devices from Best Buy, Amazon, and the Google Play Store. But soon you’ll be able to pick one up at Staples, Walmart, Tesco, FNAC, Harvey Nroman, and other locations.
Chromebooks are basically laptops that ship with Chrome OS. Most, but not all, also ship with relatively small (but fast) solid stat drives instead of hard drives. This helps them boot and resume from sleep quickly, although most Chromebooks these days are pretty zippy once they’re up and running, since most of the OS runs from RAM instead of from the slower SSD or HDD.
On the one hand, it’s easy to look at Chromebook as little more than cheap laptops that keep the price down by shipping with Google software instead of Windows. On the other hand, once you spend some time with a Chromebook, you start to think about the way you use a computer differently.
Since most Chromebooks resume from sleep just about as fast as you can open the lid, they feel almost like “always-on” devices like a smarpthone or a tablet. I find myself grabbing a Chromebook to do quick tasks like checking or responding to an email that I normally might not bother booting a slower computer for.
And since Chrome OS stores your data, settings, and other files in the cloud, you can easily pick up where you left off on another device — even an Android, Windows, or OS X device if you have the Chrome web browser installed.
A Windows 8 ultrabook offers some of those same features — but usually at a much higher price.
Of course Chromebooks don’t have to be cheap. Google’s Chromebook Pixel with a Core i5 processor, a high-resolution touchscreen display, and one of the best keyboard and trackpad systems around sells for $1300 and up.
As Chromebooks become available in more and more stores, it’s likely that we could see sales of Chrome OS devices pick up. On the other hand, we could also see a lot of customers purchase these devices failing to understand the differences between Chrome OS and Windows, which could lead to a lot of confused, disappointed customers.
Hopefully sales staff (and signage) are up to the task.