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Chromebook sales skyrocket! Watch out Microsoft!

April 2, 2014

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.

More at Computerworld

Chromebook Sales Skyrocket!

Chromebook sales increased to 2.1 million units in 2013, a sevenfold increase according to Investors Business Daily.

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:

ITworld: How to run Linux on a Chromebook

Make Use Of: How to Install Linux on a Chromebook

Lifehacker: How to Install Linux on a Chromebook and Unlock Its Full Potential

Linux.com: How to Install Linux on an Acer C720 Chromebook

One thing is for sure: Chromebook sales are smokin’ hot!

What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments below.


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6 Responses to Chromebook sales skyrocket! Watch out Microsoft!

  1. Adam on April 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I’m not surprised that Chromebooks have finally broken through. They are a great choice for users that spend most of their time in a browser and want a device that starts up fast and is easy to use.

    There are also third party tools for Chromebook users that also need access to Windows applications. For example, Ericom AccessNow is an HTML5 RDP client that enables Chromebook users to securely connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run their applications and desktops in a browser.

    AccessNow does not require any client to be installed on the Chromebook, as you only need the HTML5-compatible browser.

    For an online, interactive demo, open your Chrome browser and visit:

    Please note that I work for Ericom

  2. AmishChair on April 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Chromebooks are NOT computers. As the ad says, they’re bricks. Period.

    Any DEVICE that ties me to ANYTHING in order to get MY data or programs IS NOT A COMPUTER.

    You think Chromebook sales have been hot? Wait ’til yousee the figures on ‘lack of sales’ when the general public figures out this teensy little problem.

  3. Bernard Swiss on April 3, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Linux netbooks didn’t “fail” — they were killed of by Microsoft’s abuse of it’s influence over OEMs, abetted by Intel’s restrictions on letting them incorporate popular features (including screen, memory, storage)into hardware with cheap CPUs).

    In the very few cases where the exact same hardware was displayed and sold side-by-side with both Linux and Windows operating systems, the Linux netbooks actually out-sold the Windows version (eg Asus EeePC 901 in some British chains) to the point the Linux systems sold out, while the Windows systems hung around clogging the shelves — and then we heard excuses about how the OEM couldn’t ship replacement stock, because they were “committed” (their word) to shipping the Linux and Windows units in equal numbers.

    The most important difference with Chrome is that Google is well-known enough, popular enough — and big enough and rich enough — to prevent Chrome being smothered the same way.

    • Jim Lynch on April 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Good points, Bernard. I agree that Microsoft will never be able to squish Google the way that they’ve done with other companies. Between Android and Chrome OS, Google is making life rather miserable for Microsoft.

  4. Brian Masinick on April 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Jim, I happen to have a prototype Google Chromebook Cr-48 that I obtained at no cost from Google as part of a pilot project to kick off Google’s netbook entry into the Cloud-based computing model.

    The system was, and is now even more so, underpowered, and even so, it can boot from a cold start in about ten seconds, hibernate and go to sleep in just over a second, and wake back up in a similar amount of time.

    It can connect to a wireless network in 1-2 seconds once the system starts. It has an excellent keyboard, something much better than you’d expect for a model retailing in the $200-300 space. The display, while not large, is clear and the screen is as good as anything you are likely to find in this price range.

    Asus and Samsung sell models, and now you can get them from a variety of sources. The one I have, the Cr-48 is an original prototype done with Asus, so I’d be inclined to stick with them, but if Samsung sells a unit with the same or better specs, I’d look at it.

    But if you can remember four years ago, over on Desktop Linux Reviews Forum, when I first spoke about Chrome as a browser and ChromeOS as an OS, I had very few people going along with me. I wasn’t 100% sold on it, but I felt that if the idea could be developed, it had – and still has – a good chance to at least carve out a low end niche, and at best, create an entirely new market segment for network-based mobile computers.

    Now that tablets have had some success, there is a place for a netbook – it’s the place a tablet has when you want a better keyboard and display, and some ability to work like a laptop or a desktop, but in a remote setting. Find that niche and you’ve found what ChromeOS can do. Even underpowered, my prototype Cr-48 Chromebook has been doing it for four years now. I think this is a useful niche market.

    • Jim Lynch on April 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Excellent post, Brian. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as it’s very helpful to hear from someone who has been using ChromeOS for such a long time.

      I think Chromebooks are moving fast toward being much more than a niche market. They seem to have so much more momentum than anybody might have expected. I suspect we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg with them.

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