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Wave of Chromebooks is starting to bury PCs

Monday - 8/18/2014, 3:05am  ET

Chomebook (AP)
The Chromebook essentially a cross between a tablet and a notebook PC. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

WASHINGTON -- The PC is dead. Long live the Chromebook.

That's what WTOP's tech guy, Greg Stebben, of Men's Health, said in a recent conversation. And the tablet isn't looking all that healthy either.

"I wouldn't write it off today, but I would say the Chromebook is another handful of nails being driven into the coffin" of the personal computer, Stebben says.

PC sales are estimated to drop 3 percent this year from last year; they dropped 10 percent last year from 2012.

Stebben calls the Chromebook essentially a cross between a tablet and a notebook PC that's built for the age of the cloud.

"Once you have a smartphone and/or a tablet, you start putting things in the cloud, like documents and photos and music and all kinds of stuff," Stebben says.

After you've done that for a while, a computer feels redundant.

"You think, 'Why don't I just get a computer that's kind of like a tablet, but it has a keyboard?' And if you want something that's kind of like a tablet with a keyboard, what you want is a Chromebook."

All Chromebooks really do is get to the Internet and open a browser, but nowadays, Stebben says, that's all you really need.

They can purchased for as little as $149 and require no software and no setup.

"The first time you use it, you open it, you turn it on, you log onto your Google account, and you're done."

Stebben says that tablet sales are also dropping, and for several reasons.

Most people who wanted a tablet already got one. There haven't been any big changes to inspire people who didn't have one to get one.

"A lot of people look at a tablet in one hand and a smartphone in the other, and they think, 'They're really the same thing; it's just that the phone is smaller, but I can make phone calls on it.'"

What such people really want, he says, is the new, bigger style of smartphone that includes several tablet features -- "phablets," Stebben calls them.

On Sept. 9, Apple will come out with one or two big iPhones, Stebben predicts. But it also will make smaller phones, giving people the chance to get the kind of phone they like best.

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