Google has launched a major retail push for laptops running its web-based Chrome OS, with Chromebooks now available in more than 6,600 stores worldwide.
That's more than three times as many stores as have carried the devices previously, according to a blog post from Chromebook marketing director David Shapiro on Monday.
Amazon and Best Buy have been offering Chromebooks for the US market since June 2012. Beginning on Monday, some 2,800 Walmart locations are stocking them, too, in what could be Google's most significant retail partnership for the browser-based devices to date.
In addition, big-box office supply chain Staples will begin carrying Chromebooks in all of its US locations and its online store this weekend, and Shapiro said a number of other large retailers would follow suit in the coming months, including select Fry's, Office Depot, and OfficeMax locations, plus online electronics seller TigerDirect.
In the UK, 116 Tesco locations began selling Chromebooks on Monday, in addition to the Dixons stores that were already carrying them. As for Europe, the devices are now available in all FNAC stores in France, all Mediamarket and Saturn stores in the Netherlands, and all Elgiganten stores in Sweden.
Australia will be next, where all JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman stores will soon start carrying Chromebooks, and Shapiro says Google plans to extend its retail push into other countries later in the year.
Among the devices on display will be the latest version of the ultra-affordable Acer C7, which now ships with a 16GB SSD in place of its earlier 320GB hard disk, while retaining its $199 US price tag. Models from HP and Samsung will also be available, depending on the store.
By the way, in case you're wondering what good such a small SSD is, 16GB is par for the course for most Chromebooks. Chrome OS assumes you'll be doing most of your computing in the cloud, saving only bits and bobs to disk, resulting in minimal hardware requirements. In this Reg hack's experience, it's a model that mostly works – provided, that is, you can stay online all the time.
One thing customers still won't be able to buy in stores, however, is the granddaddy of all Chromebooks, Google's $1,300 Chromebook Pixel, which packs high-end hardware specs including a 12.85-inch, 2560-by-1700 display.
"Pixel continues to be on display at Best Buy so that people can try it out, but available for sale online only (via Google Play and Bestbuy.com)," a spokeswoman told The Register via email.
Whether a stronger retail presence will be the key to success for the other, less expensive Chromebooks, however, remains to be seen. Given the proliferation of low-cost tablets, Microsoft launching a high-profile retail push of its own, and the promised wave of more laptop-like Android devices on the way, this summer could prove a difficult one for the browser-based devices. But if Google is considering throwing in the towel on its Chrome OS hardware strategy, so far it has shown no signs. ®