After the explosion of tablet computing last year, could Brazil be ready for a next computing craze as chromebooks enter the local market?
Notebooks sales are down and tablets are hot in Brazil - and the manufacturers' pitch locally is that chromebooks offer "the best of both worlds," in order to win consumers that need leaner devices at a more reasonable cost.
However, the price competitiveness of chromebooks - a key marketing point in the US - has completely vanished in Brazil, as consumers will have to pay prices comparable to what laptops with much more processing power are going for.
The Acer chromebook, the first to launch in Brazil in October, is available locally for R$1.299 ($539) - the same device retails in the US for $199. Last week, Samsung has launched the C303, its most basic mini-destop flavor for R$1099 ($453) - this compares to the $249,99 average price it retails for in the US.
According to Bruno Freitas, research manager at IDC Brazil, the similarities between chromebooks and notebooks may confuse Brazilian customers looking for a more traditional device.
"In more mature markets such as the US, the clear difference in price is a factor that sets chromebooks apart from traditional notebooks. Here in Brazil, the price similarity requires extra caution when marketing these devices to a general audience," says Freitas.
The analyst adds that the current Internet access infrastructure available in Brazil will be the biggest challenge facing chromebooks in Brazil.
"It is true that we have a huge connectivity challenge - the dissemination of Wi-fi hotspots is still incipient and we are generally behind in comparison to the infrastructure required to fully utilize the web-based features of chromebooks," Freitas points out.
In summary, the fast uptake of mobile computing in Brazil may not be enough to bring chromebooks to the masses in Brazil - instead, the devices will be of interest to high-end, cloud-oriented users that have access to reliable, faster internet access.
However, if Brazilian retailers plan on placing chromebooks on the same shelf as traditional laptops, entry-level users (which is the very segment they are targeting in the US) that might not be looking for something as basic as a tablet might be sorely disappointed.