Surprisingly, out of Amazon’s top three best-selling laptops this holiday season, two of them are Chromebooks. Even weirder, according market research company NPD, Chromebooks account for 21% of all commercial US laptop sales so far this year, and 10% of all computers and tablets sold in the US. In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for just 0.2% of all computer and tablet sales. Is this really happening? Is Google doing it again, first with Android taking the world by storm, and now Chrome OS? Is the low-cost, netbook-in-sheep’s-clothing Chromebook the surprise breakout hit of 2013?
Now, there’s no arguing with the relative success of Chromebooks in 2013 compared to 2012. This was mostly due to the fact that, until October 2012 and the release of the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, there wasn’t really a good-and-cheap Chromebook on the market. The Samsung Chromebook, priced at around $250, has sat at the top of Amazon’s best-selling laptop list since it launched. Acer’s line of C7 Chromebooks, also priced at around $250, has also done well since it launched in November 2012, and was third place on Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops this holiday season. There is no doubt that Chromebooks are selling better at the end of 2013 than at the end of 2012.
NPD Group’s estimates that 21% of all commercial US laptop sales in 2013, and 10% of all computer and tablet sales combined, are fairly unbelievable though. Just so you understand the scale of this estimate, we expect there to be around 45 million PCs sold in the US, and millions more tablets. If 10% of those sales were Chromebooks, we’d be talking about millions of Chromebooks being sold — and don’t you think Samsung or Acer would say something celebratory if that was the case?
Furthermore, if 2013 really has been the year of the Chromebook, we’d expect to see a large spike in terms of Chrome OS’s web surfing share. The two largest trackers, NetMarketShare and StatCounter, don’t even show Chrome OS, presumably lumping them into the “other” or “Linux” categories, which account for no more than 2%. The Wikimedia traffic analysis page likewise doesn’t break out Chrome OS into its own category. Here on ExtremeTech, Chrome OS accounts for 0.2% of visits — up from around 0.04% last year. We’ve heard similar numbers from other tech sites. Chrome OS is certainly growing, but NPD’s claim that Chromebook sales have grown 50x — from 0.2% of sales to 10% — in the last 12 months seems a little optimistic.
It’s clear, though, that Google’s Chrome OS is doing better than many people would’ve thought. As it turns out, there are lots of consumers who are more than happy with a computer that has a web browser, simple document and spreadsheet editing, and not much else. It’s also clear, from Microsoft’s aggressive campaign against Chromebooks, that Chrome OS’s market share has come at the expense of Windows 8. Microsoft would’ve liked to have picked up the cheap-and-cheerful market with Windows RT, but it failed to hit the right price point ($250) and ceded a lot of territory to Google — a story that’s repeated in smartphones, too.
Even if NPD’s figures are wildly inaccurate, the point remains that Chrome OS and Chromebooks will only become more desirable as the likes of Intel, Qualcomm, LG, and Samsung continue drive down the cost of high-performance mobile chips and displays, and as web browsers and HTML5 grow in functionality and performance.
- If Everyone Is Buying Chromebooks, Who Is Using Them? (forbes.com)
- NPD: Chromebooks Enjoy 21% of Notebook Sales in 2013 – PC Magazine (pcmag.com)
- Google’s Chromebooks Now Account for nearly a Quarter of all Notebook Sales (androidheadlines.com)
- Chromebooks Are Crushing It and Here’s Some Data to Prove It (newscanada-plus.com)
- Chrome OS is Only Going to Get More Popular as We Head into 2014 (androidheadlines.com)
Posted By Mantosh Pal