Schools Continue to Drive Chromebook Sales
As reported here during the last days of 2013, holiday sales numbers for Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's cloud-centric Chrome OS platform--were very strong. Despite recent columns such as "Why there's no good reason to buy a Chromebook," the low cost computers are doing well within their niche. As reported by Bloomberg a few months ago, based on market research from NPD, Chromebooks had grabbed 20 percent to 25 percent of the U.S. market for laptops that cost less than $300 earlier this year, making them a fast growing subset of the PC industry.
Now, there are also some strong signs that Chromebook sales are being driven heavily by purchases within school systems, a trend we called out last year.
Traditionally, school systems, especially in the U.S. have turned to Apple computers, and Apple has focused on the education market. But new Apple systems are expensive, especially MacBooks and other portable computers.
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." As a matter of fact, Google officials have attended education-focused events to get a sense of the market.
School systems around the U.S. are purchasing Chromebooks for students, a trend that Google could subsidize and one that is reminiscent of Apple's strong focus on the education market from years ago. 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.
One of the reasons that Chromebooks are experiencing healthy sales is that applications that reside in the cloud can now be taken seriously. If you use google Docs, a cloud-based storage option and other cloud-centric tools, you've experienced this. When Google developed Chrome OS, it was betting on this viability of cloud applications.
In 2014, it won't be a surprise to see Chromebooks spreading throughout school systems eveywhere. And, in school systems, a new generation of students will become very familiar with Chrome OS and its cloud-focused approach to computing.