The things people will do to get Chromebook

This morning, Amazon greeted me with email promoting the ARM Chromebook. Well, hell, back in stock is a story. But what a surprise I got clicking the link. Rather than the expected $249 price, one of the retailer's third-party sellers demanded $342.92 for the WiFi model and $448.45 the 3G. There were five WiFi Chromebooks hours ago. They're sold out now -- 3G as well from the one seller. Another has one 3G unit left for $441.90 -- or about $112 more than the official selling price.

I'm a big Chromebook fan and last week made the $249 ARM model my main PC, even though Samsung's Series 5 550 is faster. I simply like the smaller portable's ergonomics and keyboard better. But my Chromebook enthusiasm stops with paying way more than Google's selling price. I've got to wonder: Why are these people paying premium price? Is it you? Is Chromebook really that much in demand?

Yes, Google heavily promotes Chromebook. Advertising is everywhere, including Times Square. Definitely, the newer models are perpetually sold out. Advertising and low pricing help create demand, which unbelievably Google and its hardware partners can't meet. But for those people drawn to prices as low as $199, why pay more -- and for an arguably underpowered device compared to x86 laptops selling for about the same as that extra cost.

For example, Amazon sells one Sony E11 model with same display size and resolution (11.6 inches, 1366 by 768), 1.7GHz AMD dual-core processor, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard drive and Windows 8 for $446.91, about the same as the overpriced ARM Chromebook with 3G. Hey, I'm just saying.

Then there is the $99 Chromebook offer Google popped two days ago. That price is really $129, when adding required $30 management fee and that's for Samsung's oldest model -- the Series 5 -- but still considerable savings from the $399 + $30 Google quotes (Amazon offers same model to anyone for $326.95 through its partners and newer 550 Chromebook for $449.99). So, again, why would anyone pay so much more for Chromebook?

Over on eBay, one seller describes the ARM Chromebook as "rare". The auction ends in about an hour (as I write) with no bids and $373.99 "buy it now" price. Another auction, with 13 bids and more than a day to go, currently is $275.75.

If Apple and Microsoft product managers don't look cockeyed at the situation, they should. No one knows the real extent of Chromebook demand -- is thousands or even millions? But buyers' willingness to pay so much more for a cheap plastic PC, running a newfangled OS fronted by a browser, packing low-powered processor and limited storage and requiring a persistent Internet connection is worth competitors' deep consideration. Whatever Google's got, Apple should want for iPad and MacBook Air and Microsoft for Surface and Windows 8 devices.

I'm surprised not so much by premium pricing but someone's willingness to pay. Aren't you?

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