Hey, Chromebooks Are Doing O.K.

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Acer

It’s time that Chromebooks got a little respect.

The question of whether people are buying these cheap, lightweight laptops came up again recently when the NPD Group reported surprising growth in the U.S. commercial market. From the start of the year through November, Chromebooks grabbed 9.6% of the PC and tablet market in schools, businesses and the like, up from 0.2% a year ago.

It looks bad for Microsoft’s enterprise business, but Chromebook detractors have countered it by pointing out the meager share of Web traffic that Chromebooks have captured so far. Even if people are buying Chromebooks, the argument goes, they aren’t using them very much.

With the disclaimer that I like Chromebooks and want to see them succeed, I think it’s clear that Chromebooks are doing fine. No one’s arguing that they’re a slam dunk on par with the iPad, but while the rest of the laptop market is in decline, Chromebooks are making meaningful gains.

Take a look at Chromebooks’ share of Internet traffic over the past year according to StatCounter (via Farshad Nayeri and Daring Fireball). In November, Chromebooks accounted for 0.11% of global Web traffic, up from 0.02% a year earlier.

(MORE: More Than Good Enough: 3 Ways Chromebooks Beat Windows Laptops)

It seems like a small number until you put it in context. Consider, for instance, that laptops and desktops as a whole are losing usage share. For Windows PCs, total Web traffic dropped by 3.91% over the past year, and Mac share dropped by 2.22%. Phones and tablets are eating away at laptop use, but Chromebooks are the exception. Their share of Internet use is steadily increasing.

Not all new products perform as well. Internet share for Windows RT, Microsoft’s ever-conflicted tablet operating system, grew from 0.01% to 0.04% over most of the year, but then slid back to 0.03% in November. In other words, while Chromebooks have kept pace with the explosion of new devices, Windows RT has not.

Besides, Chromebooks’ share of Internet use doesn’t look so minuscule next to any tablet that isn’t an iPad. Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets are supposedly selling like hotcakes, yet in November they made up just 0.15% of global Internet traffic, according to StatCounter (4.8% of Internet usage comes from tablets, 3% of which comes from Amazon devices). Chromebooks aren’t far behind.

I can throw numbers around all day, but the point is that Chromebooks are one of many types of post-PC devices that people are turning to instead of traditional laptops and desktops. Chromebooks can’t technically do as much as full-blown PCs, but like other post-PC devices, they’re thin, light, cheap and low hassle. They’re fitting in just fine.

MORE: Acer’s New $250 Chromebook Looks Great on Paper

19 comments
scott41863
scott41863

I think a lot of people buy Chromebook's because they are cheap. They followed that same path as Netbooks and eventually people got tired of them. They buy the Chromebook for the hardware, not Chrome OS. I myself think Chrome OS is OK, but I basically use it in the evenings as a web access device. I would never care for it as my primary PC. 

AG4EM
AG4EM

The people that bash Chromebooks have an all-or-nothing approach to IT.  They concentrate on what Chromebooks can't do instead of considering the fact that what they can do is enough for many types of users.  Chromebooks are a great choice for education, as a second home laptop, or for users that spend most of their time in a browser and want a device that starts up fast and is easy to use.

It's true that Chromebooks rely on having an Internet connection.  But more and more offline applications are becoming available for Chrome OS.  Besides, when the Internet is down, I'm sure that many Windows device users don't get much work done either.

What if you want to do some work from home, and your company's applications are Windows-based?  You can use a product like Ericom AccessNow, which is an HTML5 RDP solution that allows you to connect from a Chromebook to Windows applications running on Microsoft RDS or to full Windows VDI virtual desktops, and run them in the Chrome browser window.

For an online demo, open your Chrome browser and visit:
http://www.ericom.com/demo_AccessNow.asp?URL_ID=708

Please note that I work for Ericom.

teral
teral

So, chromebooks are doing well with .1 (one tenth of 1%) of web traffic after 2 and a half years in the market, 6 OEM's selling CB, 1 in 5 school districts using chromebooks and devices with prices as low as $170.

Then windows RT is  huge success, considering that only microsoft sell win RT devices with a price over $400 and only a year in the market, is trailing with a mere .03 (3 hundredths of 1%) chromebooks.

gbud
gbud

I love the concept of the Chromebook but I'm not impressed by the hardware options. 12.1/11.6" displays are too small for me. The Pixel is way too expensive. At that price it doesn't make sense to choose it over a Macbook Air. If someone is willing to make a 13.3" Chromebook version of the Macbook Air with 32GB SSD for around $500/600, I'll bite. I hope that the success of the low end Chromebooks prompts Google and it's partners to explore more price ranges.

ChrisYacyshyn
ChrisYacyshyn

im not sure on the numbers and dont really care. what i can say is that our household has replaced 3 aging windows machines with 3 chromebooks over the last year. they are as every bit as useful (for us) as the machines they replaced. offline use is not an issue (again, for us), because everything we do is online. the real benefit that i have seen (so far) is i am no longer needed as HOUSE IT support. these things just work. price was huge factor in one purchase ( daughter, who used her remaining cash to buy clothes ), but not so much for the other 2. my son opted for a chromebook and a ps4 over a alienware (?)gaming laptop, and my wife bought me one for christmas (mostly because my kids wouldnt let me use theirs ). it seems to me these things are good for people who buy windows stuff because macs are to expensive and linux is way above their "tech grade". chromebooks/boxes are the answer for my parents/grandparents/ neibours, and everyone else who calls me when they  mess up on their current pcs.




PaulDirks
PaulDirks

When discussing a machine that is utterly useless without an internet connection, it seems a tad bit skewed to use its internet usage share as a measure of success. Behind every tablet owner connected to the Web is a PC user who has actual work to do that doesn't involve surfing for videos.


otakar.schon
otakar.schon

Its gerat to see someone geetin things in perspective, suprisingly many news outlets got the original reporrt wrong and Gruber just forgot to meniton that he is comparing share of sales for one quarter with installed base of devices  accumulated from more than 5 years (the lifecycle of PC is supposedly longer than 5 years).


As for chromebooks.... they are getting more and more usefull with the rise of cloud services and some changes by Google, for many users light and fast chromebook is all they would need. 


A for power... the new haswell based chromebooks are comparable to core i5 from two years ago, so Acer c720 (199 usd) is on par with my Macbook Air 2011 (999 USD) . It has even almost as good touchpad as MBA, much better than Windows PCs by Acer or other vendors.


The argument about online only works less and less not only becaus there are offline capabilities for document editing and games and media playback but because windows PCs are next to useles without internet connection as well (th most used appplication on PC is web browser)



SMP
SMP

There is a really glaring mistake in the article when in says:


"From the start of the year through November, Chromebooks grabbed 9.6% of the PC and tablet market in schools, businesses and the like, up from 0.2% a year ago.


The NPD report measures channel sales, which excludes virtually all sales of Chromebooks to schools and businesses which are direct VAR sales. The market share relates to non VAR resellers like Amazon online sales, Best Buy and Staples retail sales etc. Commercial mean resellers that compete with each other commercially rather than operating as franchised resellers.


The Chromebook marketshare in direct sales will be much higher because of Chromebooks' large numbers of school sales, although the total number will be smaller.  


bullsheet
bullsheet

I prefer laptops to chromebooks. It's not too powerful for me.

scott41863
scott41863

I like my Chromebook but don't think its anymore then a useful second device. Like a tablet or smartphone. Its another cheap option to buy a second or even third device without breaking the bank. I have no doubt some consumers buy Chromebook's without truly understanding what they are buying. I see plenty of basic miss understanding about the differences between Chromebooks and PC's or Mac's. People fail to realize that many familiar applications don't run in Chrome OS. If you use that one application a lot the Chromebook then becomes very broken if you cannot find a way to make it work. I use mine for basic web access and checking email. I watch some Hulu and Netflix. Both work well on it.Things that don't work are Skype, iTunes, Office, many browser plugins and your stuck with Chrome browser are just a few possible negatives. Its security revolves around its very closed ecosystem. That can be good and bad. 

irwincur
irwincur

What is odd is that these sales percentages don't seem to jive at all with the OEM sales accounts for these devices.  OEM's only account for something like 2.5 million sold last year, while laptops in general are at 40 million per quarter.  Like I said, the numbers do not jive - I smell some marketing here and someone misconstruing the numbers.  Samsung alone is the largest Chrome OS OEM and they only sold 600,000 last year.

vadertime
vadertime

I really like my Chromebook. It's the perfect traveling companion.

supoman
supoman

Well you can't rip a flimsy undersized keyboard off a Chromebook and snap it back on again!!!(me being sarcastic)

cac1031
cac1031

@teral Windows RT sells all over the world.  Chromebooks are sold in about 10 countries.

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@PaulDirks Speak for yourself. Every PC I own becomes significantly less useful without an Internet connection, no matter the operating system. But in the rare event that there's no Internet, Google Drive works just fine on a Chromebook in offline mode.

cac1031
cac1031

@SMP Are you sure?  This is interesting because everything I"ve read seems to impy the opposite--that the NPD figures refer to school and business sales.  If you are right,  that is a whole different ballgame as many naysayer argue "yeah, schools--but not average people".

SMP
SMP

@irwincur 


Not all sales channels submit sales data to NPD researchers, that is the reason. Nevertheless 14 million for the US is a large proportion of the US total, and so the market share information should be very reliable.

cac1031
cac1031

@irwincur You are comparing apples and oranges.  That 40 million figure must refer to global sales.  The NPD figure is just in the U.S. and through commerical channels (for businesses, schools and govt.).  Chromebooks have only been available in a small number of countries.  Only three until earlier this year--and have since expanded to about 10.


The internet traffic figures are measuring worldwide traffic to a certain number of sites.  Even if these sites are representative of overall traffic (although they probably don't include sites where educational Chromebooks will roam),  they include all the devices ever sold that are still in use.  I would really like to see the breakdown for iPad use, which is undeniably popular, but in worldwide interntet usage probably does not account for a huge percentage.

SMP
SMP

@cac1031 @teral Chromebooks were sold in US and UK only until recently this year when 6 more countries were selected for sale, but sales and outlets in those 6 countries is being ramped up very slowly, so sales there have not been significant in 2013.