Chromebook sales are getting a real boost this year with shipments reaching 5.2 million thanks in large part to the education market, says the market research firm Gartner.
This adds up to a 79% increase over sales for 2013, and the outlook remains impressive with 14.4 million shipments predicted through 2017, writes Joshua Bolkan of The Journal. In 2013, 85% of shipments were for education use, and in the US, a total of 2.9 million Chromebooks were sold last year.
"While Chromebooks are primarily used by the education sector," according to a news release, "they will also have a place in businesses for specific workers, such as staff in banking, financial services, estate agents and hotel receptionists."
"So far, businesses have looked at Chromebooks, but not bought many," said Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "By adopting Chromebooks and cloud computing, businesses can benefit; they can shift their focus from managing devices to managing something much more important — their data."
Entering the market in 2011, Samsung and Acer continued to dominate in 2013, with Samsung, especially in the education market, having the most popular devices in primary and secondary schools.
Acer too, at 21.4%, aimed at markets needing less expensive devices. HP held third place with a 6.8% share of the market, but with a large customer base in education and business, the company should have an advantage in the near future. Lenovo's 6.7% of the market is due to its sales to schools of a comparatively sturdy Chromebook.
The demand for inexpensive laptops, the Chromebook, in particular, seems to be on the rise, but Microsoft is not taking this lying down, writes Sam Mattera of Motley Fool. With the holiday season so near, Microsoft has a variety of Window-powered devices at the ready, including the HP Stream coming in at $199. Microsoft's concern over Chromebook's popularity seems premature since, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), Google's Chrome produced only 1% of PCs shipped last year. However, Chromebook does not run Microsoft's Office suite, which, of course, means that every Chromebook sold results in one less Windows licensing sale.
However, the Google Chromebook OS is predicted to gain appeal over time, especially as software shifts to the cloud and high-speed iInternet connections get better and better. Also, almost all of Microsoft's hardware partners are partnering with Chromebook, and Gartner predicts the Chromebook will triple in popularity in the next five years.
Microsoft will not have to be too worried about Chromebook if a) it comes out with a similarly-priced notebook, and b) if when Windows 9 comes out, it comes out in a big way. But, as the Gartner report says, if the Chromebook takes 5% of the personal computers market by 2017 — about the Mac's current market share — then that becomes rather significant, says Preston Gralla of ComputerWorld.
In an article written by Kurt Mackie for Redmond Channel Partner, Isabelle Durand, a principal research analyst with Gartner and co-author of the report, says that Chromebooks have not taken off in the business world yet.
"We saw some interest from businesses (such as Logitech, City of Orlando, IHG, Dillards retail chain, Mollen Clinics, London Council) even if to date sales are very low," she commented via e-mail.
There was also some use in real estate, hotels, contact centers, stores, and libraries.
"Some IT organizations could switch to Chromebook to save costs (cheaper than Windows PC)," she said. "Since Chromebooks are cloud-based devices, the security, device management, and even core content creation apps such as Google Docs are run in the cloud which produces cost reductions on both managing and setting up the devices, as well as some software licensing costs."
Durand acknowledges that improvements are going to have to be made, such asf aster memory access, faster and larger solid-state drives, and stronger user support to address cloud-based usage patterns.