Can Google Partners Sell Chromebooks Against Microsoft's Surface Tablet?9:10 PM EST Fri. Jun. 22, 2012
While Microsoft partners are disappointed the company’s forthcoming Surface tablets will not be sold through the channel, Google partners say Surface may help them as they move ahead to offer Chromebooks to their customers.
Chromebook sales have been modest, but Google partners say they are optimistic the cloud-based tablet will catch on and that Surface will spur interest in tablets.
For the moment, however, Chromebooks are seeing slow sales, according to Tom Mainelli, IDC research director for mobile connected devices.
[Related: 5 Challenges For Microsoft's Surface Tablet]
“Chromebooks have sold very poorly to date,” Mainelli said in an email to CRN. “We don't have a hard number, but between Acer and Samsung we estimate they've sold fewer than 250,000 units worldwide total since launch."
Mainelli added that by selling Surface only through its stores, Microsoft may hurt sales.
“Unless they change that strategy, this is a clear indication that Microsoft doesn't expect to move a huge number of Surface tablets,” he said. “I think this adds credibility to the suggestion that this is more about showing their partners how to make a good tablet than it is about Microsoft outright competing with them.”
A Google spokesperson said the company does not release figures on product sales but added that Chromebooks sales are progressing well.
“In addition to online retailers and direct-from-Google sales, over the past several months we have allowed some of our existing Apps resellers to sell Chromebooks to start to open up the channel,” Jessica Kositz, a Google spokesperson, said in an email. “The channel will be tremendously important to the ultimate success of Chromebooks; right now we’re being very deliberate about how we extend our reach because Chromebooks represent a new way of thinking about computing.”
NEXT: Will Surface Spur Tablet Curiosity Toward Chromebook?
Apple continues its domination of the tablet market, shipping 11.8 million iPads in first quarter of 2012, according to IDC. The number of units shipped in the quarter declined from 15.4 million units sold in the previous quarter. Apple increased its market share of the tablet market to 68 percent in the first quarter from 57 percent in the previous quarter.
Google partners now have an updated product line with which to work. In late May, Google and Samsung jointly launched a second generation of the Chromebook as well as a Chromebox desktop unit, both of which run on Google’s Chrome OS and are cloud-based.
Google partners in many cases are moving ahead under a pilot program to sell the cloud-based notebooks and say they are seeing modest results.
“With Chromebooks, the biggest requests we’ve had in the last few weeks are [from] call centers and retail, where the value is a much better than a full-fledged desktop computer,” David Hoff, co-founder and senior vice president of operations and technology of Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta, Ga.-based solution provider and Google partner, said in an email.
Hoff said Chromebooks can be more valuable in an enterprise than tablets.
“We are seeing a high level of interest in pilots for Chromebooks in the enterprise but not as a direct response to tablets,” he said. “Many organizations have started to realize that tablets are ideal for data consumption, but fall short when knowledge workers have significant content generation needs (e-mail for instance).”
In any case, Hoff said, possible high prices for Surface may hurt adoption. “Given the rumored pricing levels, the surface devices will only be successful in a fractional percentage of the use cases,” he said.
While Surface’s impact on the tablet market is unclear, Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based cloud provider that sells Google Apps, said its launch should help Chromebooks sales.
“I think Surface will spur curiosity about the tablet market,” Falcon said. “I definitely think it will cause more people to think about Chromebooks.”
Kevin Lalor, CEO of Google partner and solutions provider Business Intelligence 101, of Livermore, Calif., said it’s too early to perceive how Surface will impact the market; however, he said, Chromebooks have not created a strong demand.
“It doesn’t seem like there is as much interest yet compared to the iPad,” he said.
But he thinks demand will grow, and he plans to enter the Chromebook pilot program in the near future.
“I know we will be able to sell them,” Lalor said.
This story was originally published on June 22.