Microsoft should be very, very worried. Chromebooks have become the stealth success of the computing world in the last couple of years. Who would have thought that cloud-powered laptops, with relatively low hardware specs would come out of nowhere and begin selling in the millions? Richi Jennings, a blogger at Computerworld, has a good roundup of recent Chromebook stories.
The Chromebook platform goes from strength to strength. Market researchers say they’re selling faster than ever, predicting 11 million sales (in… err… 2019). And it’s not just consumers buying them. Some enterprises are choosing to move most of their Windows users to Chrome OS — motivated by the XP end-of-life and cost savings.
Image credit: Computerworld
The surprising success of Chromebooks
I have to admit that the success of Chromebooks has taken me by surprise. When I first read about them they seemed too close to the failed netbook model, and I more or less wrote off Chrome OS as being yet another also-ran operating system. Boy was I wrong about Chromebooks!
Right now Chromebooks are ruling the roost on Amazon’s list of bestselling laptops. As I write this five of the top fifteen laptops are Chromebooks, and there are quite a bit more if you go further down the list. Chromebook sales are red hot right now, there’s no doubt about it. I expect we’ll see even greater dominance by Chromebooks on Amazon’s list as more and more people discover them.
Microsoft’s dismay in the face of the Chromebook assault on Windows
Microsoft has to be watching the trend in Chromebook sales with absolute horror. Windows 8 has been a dismal disappointment, with many users and companies clinging desperately to Windows 7 in the hopes that Windows 9 will somehow be better. It must kill the folks in Redmond to see Google’s Chrome OS stealing sales that they desperately need to prop up the ailing Windows franchise. Between Chromebooks and Microsoft’s irrelevance in the mobile market, the company seems to be falling farther and farther behind its competitors.
Google’s reputation could affect Chromebook sales negatively
But Chromebooks do have an Achilles heel and its name is Google. Given past criticisms of Google’s privacy policies and its obnoxious tendency to want to know everything about those who use its services, some folks have become very reluctant to buy products like Chromebooks. These users do not want Google tracking and profiling them, privacy is a big concern for them and it may be keeping some people from trying Chromebooks.
My feeling is that you get what you get with Google. Chromebooks are priced fairly low compared to other laptops, and the cost of that is being tied to Google’s online services. Once you are aware of that then you can decide if the value of a Chromebook is worth potentially having Google know quite a lot about you.
The other problem with Chromebooks though is that they may not have the hardware or software capabilities to meet the needs of advanced users. I don’t see this as all that big of a deal, however. I think Chromebooks are aimed at the much bigger mass market, so if some power users avoid them I don’t think it will affect Chromebook sales. For less demanding users, a Chromebook can fulfill pretty much all of their basic computing needs.
Chromebooks are another valid choice for users
Privacy and other issues aside, I’m actually glad that Chromebooks are available. Chrome OS is an interesting alternative to Windows, OS X and even regular desktop Linux. It isn’t my cup of tea, but it might very well be somebody else’s and I’m a huge fan of people having as many choices as possible. The more choices, the better for all of us.
Plus the cheap prices of some Chromebooks make them much more affordable than more expensive laptops, and that can be a very good thing for some folks in today’s difficult economy. I suspect that Chromebooks will eventually be huge in the developing world since they offer a viable alternative to more expensive computers.
You can even install desktop Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Debian on Chromebooks. See the following articles for instructions on how to do just that:
One thing is for sure: Chromebook sales are smokin’ hot!
What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments below.