Samsung’s 11.6″, ARM-powered Chromebook laptop is an intriguing device. Announced back in October, the device pairs the looks of a MacBook Air with the stripped-down feature set that Chromebooks are known for — a small amount of flash storage (16 GB), a meager serving of RAM (2 GB), and an operating system that is, essentially, a Google Chrome browser window. It’s a laptop for the Web minimalist; a tool for someone who can get by without a lot of local file storage and resource-heavy desktop apps.
Being someone who works primarily on the Web, the Chromebook appeals to me because I rarely use desktop software, and I’m not always around an outlet to charge my current laptop every three hours. The latest Samsung model caught my eye due to its price tag ($250). It finally came down to where I thought a Chromebook should be priced. Earlier today, I set out to purchase one. As it turns out, that’s not an easy thing to do.
I excitedly began my journey on the Chromebook website, scoping out the product a bit more. It really is a nice-looking device. I clicked on the “Order Now” button and was given two choices: Amazon and Best Buy. While Google had originally been selling the device on its Google Play store, as well, it seems that is no longer the case.
Okay, I thought. I’ll just order one from Best Buy.
“NOT SO FAST,” the text seemed to bellow from the screen, like some sort of bridge troll. “IT IS I, BEST BUY, GUARDIAN OF THE SAMSUNG CHROMEBOOK. THAT ITEM IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR SHIPPING.”
Fine. I’ll just pick one up from a local Best Buy. That’s even better. Then I won’t have to wait for it.
“NOT SO FAST,” the Best Buy troll smugly replied. “THAT ITEM IS UNAVAILABLE.”
At all of the stores? No way. I plugged in my zip code and searched. After scrolling through a list of 24 (twenty-four!) Best Buy stores in Pennsylvania and Maryland, I was left to face the bitter truth: not a single location carries the Samsung Chromebook.
You win this time, Best Buy. I gather my things and set foot toward Amazon, my only remaining option.
After the disappointment I was dealt at the hands of Best Buy, I scurried over to Amazon as quickly as possible. I’ve never had a bad experience with Amazon. The site has competitive prices. Prime is a hell of a deal. There’s no way Amazon would let me down.
I type “Samsung Chromebook” into the search box, and press Enter. There it is! Samsung Chromebook, Wi-Fi, 11.6-inch. But where is the shipping estimate? What is this strange text I see underneath the product name and price? No. No. It can’t be…
“Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we’ll deliver when available.”
Amazon has exactly zero Samsung Chromebooks to sell. But it’ll gladly let me order one and then ship it to me when some stock arrives, whenever that may be. Fat chance that I’ll be putting that order through, but thanks.
So, to recap…
Google is not selling its own product anymore. Both of the retailers it refers customers to, Best Buy and Amazon, are either not carrying the product or are out of stock. This is a problem, not just for the customers like me who are trying to track down this surprisingly elusive product, but also for Google. Every second that goes by, Google is missing out on a chance to hook someone on the Chromebook experience. And, by not providing any kind of information about when new stock might be coming in, the company isn’t even inviting these buyers to wait. Google is basically saying, “Who knows when, or if, we’ll be selling more of these. You should probably just go buy another laptop. Or maybe put some of that money toward an iPad mini.”
Whose fault is it? I can’t tell you for sure. We don’t have any kind of numbers to go by in terms of Chromebook sales, so we don’t know if this particular model is selling like hotcakes, or if Google/Samsung produced so few of them that they’re having trouble keeping up with even the lightest bit of demand. Hell, maybe there is a warehouse full of these suckers somewhere and Google or Samsung is doing a terrible job at keeping retailers stocked up.
All I know is this: the Samsung Chromebook is nowhere to be found during the holiday shopping season. And that’s not a good thing.