In 2012, Google's Chromebooks captured a laughable 0.2% of computer purchases within United States-based businesses and institutions. Thus far in 2013? Chromebook penetration has skyrocketed to a 9.6% share, and a staggering 21% piece of the sales pie when zeroing in on just notebooks.
“The market for personal computing devices in commercial markets continues to shift and change,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis, NPD. “New products like Chromebooks, and reimagined items like Windows tablets, are now supplementing the revitalization that iPads started in personal computing devices. It is no accident that we are seeing the fruits of this change in the commercial markets as business and institutional buyers exploit the flexibility inherent in the new range of choices now open to them.”
Indeed, we’ve seen an attractive selection of Windows tablets emerge this year, and their share of unit sales has risen from 0.8% to 2.2% in this channel. But that minor uptick in visibility is overshadowed by Microsoft's struggle in the notebook space: Windows notebook sales are down 21% from the same time period in 2012.
For those keeping score at home, Google’s Chromebooks gobbled up that 21% within 11 months. That’s definitely cause for concern in Redmond, and clearly a driver for Microsoft’s new Scroogled campaign focusing on Chromebooks.
But why the dramatic surge in Chromebook popularity? I’m sure a dominant factor is price. Two of Amazon’s top three selling laptops during the holiday season were — you guessed it — Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer, which may be a reasonable consumer snapshot. Those laptops clock in at $249 for the Samsung WiFi Chromebook, and $199 for Acer’s C720 Chromebook.
Businesses and schools alike are realizing that they can use Google Docs for collaboration in lieu of Microsoft Office, and store their important data on the cloud without risking data loss in the event of a hardware malfunction. Plus, Google’s Enterprise tools are making deployment easier, and for the most part ChromeOS is a hassle-free operating system. And one that’s decidedly speedy with its stripped down, streamlined design.
All of this leads to lower expenses in IT departments.
Microsoft’s argument against Chromebooks and ChromeOS is the machine’s reliance on being connected to the internet, but you have to ask yourself: Aren’t the majority of your day-to-day computing tasks being carried out in a browser anyway?
Chromebooks aren’t for everyone, but there’s no arguing the fact that Google has made a serious impact in 2013, and it’ll be fascinating to watch how this battle spills over into average consumer habits.