Analyst: Partners Stand To Gain As Chromebooks Hit Best Buy Stores

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Google is making Chromebooks available in Best Buy stores immediately, a move that could push sales of the notebook computer and, in so doing, help partners selling the devices.

Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president of Chrome, unveiled the move Thursday at Google’s I/O developer conference in San Francisco. He also said Google is preparing for a new line of Chromebooks in addition to those now manufactured by Asus and Samsung, for release in the 2012 holiday shopping season.

Making Chromebooks more readily available to consumers could be just what’s needed to boost lagging sales. Research firm IDC estimates that less than 250,000 Chromebooks have been sold.

[Related: Can Google Partners Sell Chromebooks Against Microsoft's Surface Tablet?]

And as consumers become more aware of Chromebooks, that might help channel sales, said Dan Olds, senior analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, a Beaverton, Ore.-based enterprise technology research firm.

“I would argue this is good for the channel because it gets Chromebooks in customers’ hands,” Olds said. Channel Chromebook sales are made in multiple units to schools and businesses, so a single consumer buying a tablet would have little channel impact, he said.

Additionally, Google partners wind up providing value-added services around Chromebooks. “Partners’ customers are going to want quantities of Chromebooks, but also customization, and Best Buy is not set up to do that,” Olds said.

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 he is not concerned by the Best Buy announcement and pointed out has been selling the notebooks since their first release.

Hoff said the retailers don't offer a Chromebooks management console that can be purchased by Google Apps-authorized resellers.

"This is a very powerful feature that can be attached to any Chromebook," Hoff said. "It allows the domain owner/administrator to fully control the machine via policies. Things like Wi-Fi settings, proxy servers, browser extensions and device security are all administered through this console.”


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