Chromebooks Grab Share in Back-to-School Purchases

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 27, 2013

All through this year, market research news has been very dreary for PCs and PC equipment makers. Tablets often grab headlines for cutting into PC marketshare, but, increasingly, Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's cloud-centric Chrome OS--are presenting a viable alternative to standard laptops.

Now, hard data is coming in on how various classes of computing hardware fared during the back-to-school period, and Chromebooks are one of the big bright spots. In fact, research from the NPD Group shows that Chromebooks, which didn’t exist in the back-to-school period for 2012, added almost 175,000 units to the market this year and provided all the growth in the challenged notebook market.

“Chromebooks and Windows Touch helped offset what could have been much steeper declines this back-to-school season,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement. “While these results are better than the almost 4 percent decline from the first half of the year, any declines in the crucial back-to-school period leave reason to be concerned for the upcoming holiday season.”

Across all hardware units sold, as tracked by NPD weekly, Chromebooks only represented 3.3 percent of the back-to-school market, but that is up from zero last year.

Also, as we've reported, school systems themselves are supporting sales of Chromebooks.  Westwood High School in Massachussetts is buying Chromebooks to issue to students who will return them once they graduate. The Bell-Chatham school board has approved Chromebook purchases for students, as has the Sumner School District.

It's no secret why school systems are opting for Chromebooks rather than computers running Apple or Microsoft platforms. Chromebooks are inexpensive, with solid systems available for under $250. Google has also made solid steps toward providing compatibility with Microsoft Office applications. Through Google's acquisition of QuickOffice, it is allowing users of the Chrome browser and Chrome OS to edit Microsoft Office applications.

According to NPD Group, Chromebooks are helping to bring the average costs of portable computers down, and it's also worth noting that many tech heavyweights are signing on to produce new Chromebooks.  At the recent Intel Developer Forum, Intel discussed broad plans to bring its Haswell chip technology to new Chromebooks. Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard and Acer announced new versions of Chromebooks and Toshiba, a respected player in the portable computer space, launched an initiative to deliver Chromebooks.

Acer, of course, has already made a splash with its C7 Chromebook (shown above) which has steadily sold for $199--a remarkable price. And, some OStatic readers have reported buying low cost Chromebooks just to put their favorite Linux distros on the machines.