Low-end laptops: the rise of the Chromebook

Some Windows experts, such as Paul Thurrott call Chromebooks a joke. Certain industrial groups, such as
NetMarketShare, claim they still see virtually no use of Chrome OS

. Both should wake up and smell the Chrome OS coffee. Chromebooks have been selling like hot cakes on a cold morning for a year now.

Market analysts agree: Chromebooks have taken off in the low-end laptop market while Windows 8.x PCs continue to decline.

Chrome OS, a version of Linux that uses the Chrome web browser for its primary interface, and its primary hardware platform, Chromebooks, are actually the only segment of the
dying pc market

which have actually increased, according to Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for consumer technology for the retail analysis group, NPD Group. “The low end [computer] market is growing. It’s overall positive, everything else is negative, ”Baker added.

“We expect Chromebooks to continue to have a substantial presence in the entry-level price brackets over the holidays,” Baker added. “They have consistently accounted for 20-25% of the entry-level consumer laptop market in 2013 and given the typical price sensitivity of consumers (and channels) during the holidays, they are uniquely positioned to grow. this share during the holiday period. The significant marketing and advertising support that Google provides to its partners will likely be a key element in continuing to market the product and show consumers that it is a reasonably priced alternative to a tablet. “

This last point is important. Baker sees Chromebooks not only competing with low-end Windows 8.x laptops, but tablets as well. In particular, NPD is fighting with Android tablets for market share during the holidays.

Prior to that, Baker said Chromebooks sold at an exceptional rate during the back-to-school buying season. This may be one of the reasons why
Sluggish growth rate in Windows 8 adoption

cut to half its already usual low adoption rate in October.

Amazon’s bestseller list was the first to show that Chromebooks were in high demand with buyers in January when the
The best-selling laptop was Samsung’s ARM Chromebook

. Ten months later, Amazon’s sales list shows Chromebooks are stronger than ever. Four of Amazon’s five best-selling laptops on November 8 were Chromebooks.

Leading the pack was the
$ 243 Samsung Chromebook powered by ARM

again. This was followed by the $ 279
HP Chromebook 11

; the only Windows system, the $ 459
ASUS Transformer Book T100TA-C1-GR Convertible Laptop with Touchscreen

; the $ 249
Acer C720 Chromebook

; and its predecessor, the $ 249
Acer C710 Chromebook

. In addition to the providers mentioned above,
Lenovo also sells Chromebooks


Rajani Singh, Senior Research Analyst for IDCPC Tracker’s quarterly, has also seen Chromebooks gain traction. “In the third quarter of 2013, Chromebooks continued to show some dynamism. At present, adoption in the education segment is quite visible, as this segment is very sensitive to the price and low cost of the Chromebook. have contributed to greater adoption. Even retail buyers are also embracing the Chromebook. But we have to wait and see if Chromebook volume is driven by vendor push or market demand. ‘education and consumer, we anticipate some adoption in small offices (mainly) and small businesses (some volume) in the near future (Q4 ’13 and Q1 ’14). “

That said, Singh warned, “Chromebooks from all vendors except Samsung haven’t performed particularly well. Even with Samsung’s products, they mostly only impact K-12 education in the US – replacing aging netbooks. In Q3 13, Samsung shipped around 652,000 Chromebooks globally, the majority (around 89%) of which was in the United States, with just over 577,000 units. Of the other vendors, Lenovo, Acer and HP shipped, but in very small volumes. Samsung continues to lead by shipping the majority of Chromebooks within the geographic limits of the United States. “

One of the reasons for this, Singh said, is that, despite Amazon’s numbers, “Chromebooks on the whole are still a tough sell for consumers because there are so few apps available. is also one of the reasons why, even after such low prices, the adoption of Chromebooks is still slow in the non-educational segments.

That said, Singh concluded, “Chromebooks will continue to show momentum, at least in the short term their share will grow, but overall they will hold a minority share of the total laptop space. Longer term, we have to wait and see if the demand for Chromebooks really increases or they do the same fate as “netbooks” (strong growth followed by sudden disappearance). It also depends on the vendors, if they are able to come up with improved versions of Chromebook that have more features, keeping the prices low, and some key vendors are working on that. “

At the same time, IDC vice president of customers and displays from Bob O’Donnell warns that: “Essentially, the value equation for Chromebooks is the cheapest clamshell laptops you can buy, but we expect to see even more aggressive Windows 8s. laptops that will directly compete with Chromebooks in terms of price and likely represent better value for most consumers than Chromebooks. “

Unhappy Windows 8.x users may disagree. The market, who saw
Windows 7 usage increases in September

, seems to have little interest in learning Windows 8. As David VanAmburg, director of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) said, “
Microsoft’s revamped Windows 8 operating system doesn’t appear to have rebounded sales

or in customer satisfaction for these manufacturers. “

Say what you want about Chromebooks, anyone who’s ever used a web browser can sit back and start being productive. The same cannot be said for Windows 8.x with its Metro interface. Indeed, Google is working to make possible the use of its
Chrome web browser as a de facto desktop shell for Windows 8.x


Another problem with the cheap Windows scenario is that Windows defeated Linux netbooks not because of a new operating system, but by bringing back an old operating system, Windows XP, at almost zero cost to providers. As Microsoft scrambles to move its own expensive Surface Pro 2 units to Windows 8.1, a return to this approach seems unlikely.

Research house Gartner Also sees good things to come for Chromebooks. In a report released earlier this year, Isabelle Durant, senior technology and consumer market analyst, said that while “the Chromebook standard failed to gain attention at launch, but we’re starting to see more of it. interest of consumer, business and education markets. Chromebook vendors like Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung should target buyers looking for low-cost web devices or an alternative to Windows 8.“And, indeed, that’s exactly what they did.

Finally, forward-looking hardware managers also see other possibilities for Chome OS as a desktop replacement. Jen-Hsun Huang, President and CEO of
Nvidia, during the company’s third quarter 2013 earnings call

, that if “We don’t have any exposure to Chrome today… it turned out to be a pretty big operating system. We’ve known from the start that it is technologically incredibly robust, resilient, and high quality, and now we are seeing pretty strong adoptions everywhere so this is an area that deserves our focus on our part and we will put some energy around it to see if we can make a contribution in this space as well. “

Today, the Chromebook has become a powerhouse in budget PCs. Tomorrow we’ll have to see, but unless Microsoft manages to regain its desktop momentum, it looks like Chromebook and Android tablets will own the world of low-cost computer users.

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