The Advent of the Chromebook Era

Mobile – Now that the holiday shopping blitz is behind us (almost) Amazon has released sales data on the West’s most important retail buying period, that seems to indicate the rise of the Chromebook over traditional Microsoft (or Apple) OS based systems.

Gartner World Wide Chromebook Sales 2013
Gartner World Wide Chromebook Sales 2013

 Turns out that the top selling computers of any type on the giant Amazon retail web site this holiday season included not one, but three versions of Chromebook, including two 11.6-inch devices (Acer and HP) plus the 13-inch diagonal ASUS laptop.  Interestingly, this is the second holiday shopping season that Chromebook made the best seller list.  Last year Amazon reported two of the top three computers sold were running sans an operating system using the popular Google Chrome Web browser as the primary user interface, rather than a traditional OS.

These results came in the face of some stiff competition by Microsoft and its hardware partners looking to sell cheaper laptops using the Win8 OS.  The HP Stream Signature Ed. laptop features a 13-inch diagonal LCD 2GB internal RAM and 32GB memory.  It was priced at just $200 and included free MS Office (365 Personal edition) software.  But it wasn’t enticing enough to bump the cloud based HP 11-2010nr 11.6-inch Chromebook (also known as Snow White) from the top selling Amazon perch.  This, along with the Acer C720 Chromebook (with 2GB internal memory and 11.6-inch display) and the ASUS Chromebook 13-inch with 16 GB flash memory and 2GB internal RAM.

According to a report from Gartner in August 2014, Chromebooks will sell 5.2M units by the end of the year, in what the research company reckons is a 79% increase in sales from 2013 numbers from eight models now selling in the PC market, according to Isabelle Durand of Gartner.  The group said it expects Chromebook vendors to nearly triple that number by 2017 reaching 14.4M units, that comprise the sub-$300 portable PC category.  In 2013 the US Education market was the top sector claiming 85% of Chromebook sales, Gartner said, with a whopping 82% of all Chromebooks sold in the US.

This HP Stream 13 was not enough to entice buyers away from Chromebook's Cloud based appeal
This HP Stream 13 was not enough to entice buyers away from Chromebook’s Cloud based appeal

Suffice it to say the trends for low cost laptops are clearly shifting as the Amazon press release indicates.  Chromebooks now dominate computer sales (at least on Amazon)  with sales numbers that may have even taken the Gartner folks by surprise.  The company still sees Chromebooks as a “niche market” over the next five years, but one that is acing out PC laptops running more conventional operating systems.

Finally, Gartner’s Durant said “Making a competitive Chromebook is not just a matter of hardware and price; what is most important is to show how the device’s cloud-based architecture provides genuine advantages to users.”  We agree, and in the face of tablet, “phablet” and smartphone sales the tried and true PC laptop is likely evolving into a cloud based mobile device with the convenience of a traditional keyboard to go. – Steve Sechrist