Putting Chromebook Sales in Proper Perspective

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 07, 2014

It seems that several prominent analysts are taking aim at recent media reports that have allegedly miscast how well Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's Chrome OS platform--are doing in sales terms. "There has been a ton of misreporting as many lazy reporters and bloggers have characterized this as all sales, which it wasn't, or even consumer sales, which it most assuredly was not," Stephen Baker of the NPD Group, reportedly told Computerworld, for example.

It is true that Chromebooks are a fast growing subset of the portable computer market, especially in the low priced segment and for certain markets, including schools.  However, many of the reports characterizing Chromebooks as Mac and Windows slayers are over the top and exaggerated.

Part of what drove so many year-end stories in the media about how well Chromebooks were doing was that they were consistenly among the top selling portable computers on sites like Amazon. But some reporters extrapolated that into pronouncements that Chromebooks are threatening Windows laptops for market share, doing so in businesses, etc.

In the business market, Windows-based systems continue to have overwhelmingly dominant market share. As we've reported, Chromebooks are doing especially well in schools. Their low prices are attractive to many school systems. As reported by Mashable, noted Silicon Valley analyst Tim Bajarin said: "There are no governments or IT departments running out to buy these products — they would be underwhelmed. Instead, this growth is being driven by education."

And, as NPD and others have reported, Chromebooks continue to sell well in the under-$300 portable computer market. But it must be kept in mind that this low cost segment is a small subset of the overall portable computer market and is certainly not the sweet spot for business or government portable computer purchases.

Chromebooks truly are inexpensive, with solid systems available for under $250. I've also made the case for why it would be smart for Google to step up incentives for Chromebook buyers.  Google has already explored this avenue.  For example, buyers of Chromebooks have been getting 100GB of free Google Drive storage, free WiFi when flying, Google Play incentives and more.

Here on OStatic, some readers have written in saying that they are buying Chromebooks simply to put their favorite Linux distros on the low cost devices. In other cases, there are lots of young people being introduced to Chromebooks and getting a taste of cloud-centric computing, storage and applications. Chromebooks are here to stay, but they are not crushing the overall portable computer market.