The rise of the Chromebook has Microsoft worried, as Forbes’ Jason Evangelho explains. A recent study by the NPD Group says that the Chromebook platform has reached 9.6% share in North American business and institutions, and 21% of the associated notebook sales market. But if the Chromebook revolution has really jumped into a significant percentage of the portables market, where are the users? With Chrome OS essentially a very big browser, I would expect an uptick in the browser usage market to reflect some of that sales increase.
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As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, the browser share of Chrome OS is not in sync with the perception cast by the NPD sales figures. Looking at StatCounter’s breakdown of the numbers, the browser share is approaching one fifth of one percent (Horace Dediu, @Asymco). That’s a rather big discrepancy. For hardware that requires a decent online connection to work, I would expect to see Chrome OS to be more visible than this.
The thin client nature of the Chromebook might be attractive to IT departments, but it will need more than some statistics that show “21% of notebook sales” to support the revolution. There would also need to be a corresponding jump in sales to consumers alongside the enterprise sales noted by NPD to consolidate Chrome OS as a mainstream choice.
The netbook was going to change the world and put a cheaper and much more portable computer into consumer’s hands. At its peak, the combined netbook sales made up around 20% of the notebook market (DisplaySeach, via CNet) and while manufacturers such as Samsung and Acer explored marketing options and form factors, netbooks never delivered on their promise.
Now we have the rise of the Chromebook (with hardware support from a number of manufactures, notably Samsung and Acer), and there are a number of data points that show they are being sold in decent numbers (Amazon’s best-selling laptop lists and the recent NPD Group survey being two). No doubt these sales are being driven by the low price and the ability to perform the same basic functionality that the netbooks would provide, but the market share percentages and growth numbers need to be backed up with real-world data showing usage and acceptance by the public.
That Chromebooks are out there is not in doubt, but much like Android, there is an intriguing disconnect between the reported sales and the evidence of usage online. Sales are up in one sector in one geographic area is a nice story. A better story would be the widespread adoption of Chrome OS by the general public in numbers that show more than idle curiosity.
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