I won’t spend any time setting this premise up, because the setup is a reality you and I are already living in and dealing with. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed so many parts of our society and collective existence, but its effect on the Chromebook market is one I honestly did not see coming. While we don’t have firm numbers on sales at this point, the writing is clearly inscribed on the wall: Chromebooks are selling like crazy in the midst of the pandemic.
Stores all over the place – even manufacturers’ own store fronts – are consistently out of stock on many models of their Chromebooks and for the ones that are left, the always-on-sale reality we lived in pre-pandemic has eroded almost completely. In that void we now find reduced inventory and full MSRP across the board. Chromebooks that were selling for $350 – $450 dollars just 6 weeks ago are now routinely found for the $599 tag they first shipped with.
When my in-laws reached out to have me help them find a replacement to their aging Toshiba Chromebook (the first one) and Acer C720 (also the first one), I got their budget and started shopping. To my surprise, it was quite difficult to find a $400 Chromebook that I was happy to recommend. That’s not to say there aren’t $400 Chromebooks out there, but that money doesn’t go as far as it did a few weeks ago.
I ended up finding some refurbished HP Chromebook 15’s with the Core i3, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $399, but the i5/8GB/128GB version of that same Chromebook was on sale TWICE this year for only $349. The sticker price is $599 and for those internals, that isn’t terrible, but knowing the sale price tends towards the $400 range made suggesting it at full price almost impossible.
The more I searched, the more the reality of the pandemic settled over me. Clearly, Chromebooks are selling in much higher volume than in any time previous. In the end when we have some numbers behind all this, I’m sure it will come down to a variety of factors. My guess is the sharp uptick in working from home combined with an even more sharp rise in schooling from home has led to average consumers looking to scoop up Chromebooks at a higher rate than ever before.
For workers, Chromebooks can provide a convenient, simple, and affordable work from home device. For kids, many of them likely work from Chromebooks at schools that may not have a 1-to-1 program, so they need a Chromebook at home to take care of school work. Trust me, we’ve fielded more questions about purchasing Chromebooks for school work than ever before, so the need is real and is being evidenced in stores all around.
Now Is The Time
With so many sold out Chromebook sections, the time is now for Chromebooks to release. Big, small, cheap or expensive; it doesn’t matter right now. If you are a manufacturer that makes and ships Chromebooks and you are waiting around to launch a device, you are missing a big, potential audience right now. Every day that passes, companies like Lenovo, Acer, ASUS, and Samsung are losing out on tons of Chromebook sales because devices are simply out of stock.
At this point, the uncoordinated and fumbled launches we normally see with Chromebooks should serve as a reconfigured window of opportunity. Forgo what launch plans you may have had, forgo marketing, and forgo timelines that do anything to hamper getting your devices on store shelves. In the current climate, Chromebooks of all shapes, sizes and prices will sell better than they ever have. If we look at the high end of the market, those looking to buy a nicer device would have had some trepidation about spending $500-600 on a new model Chromebook when last year’s devices are still available and on sale. With the limited availability and disappearing sale prices, that’s simply not the case right now.
And on the low side of the spectrum, people are still eagerly shopping for Chromebooks for the kids and low prices will move Chromebooks. Devices like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet would literally be flying off shelves if it was available for purchase right now. As a matter of fact, if it does launch in the next couple weeks, I’d wager it will be one of the first new Chromebook releases to sell out within days. At $279 for a brand new Chromebook tablet, it hits the sweet spot of features and price that so many are looking for right now, and it will go quick. I really hope Lenovo has a warehouse full of these: they’ll need it.
All this to say: as an open plea to manufacturers, please just list and ship your Chromebooks if you have them. Forget media events and press kits. Send out a launch email with some stats and pictures of your new Chromebooks and the press/media will make people aware of where to get them and how to buy them. The world is hungry for Chromebooks and if there’s ever been a time to just get your product on the shelves, that time is now.