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.
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.