Surprise! Chromebook demand rising fast

A Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

A Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

If you think Google Inc.’s Chromebooks are a joke — as Microsoft Corp. would have you believe — think again. A report by ABI Research finds the number of Chromebooks shipped in 2013 topped 2.1 million, and most of them sold in the North America.

More significant: ABI projects Chromebook sales will top 11 million in five years. Given the decline in WinTel PCs and Apple Inc.’s MacBooks, the model could represent 4 percent of total personal computer sales. Some analysts say Chromebooks already hold 10 percent of notebook sales.

Google partnered with Samsung Electronics Corp. and Acer Inc. in 2011 to develop the first Chromebooks, which are low-cost notebook computers that run on the Chrome operating system and leverage Google’s cloud-based applications. In the last 18 months, other PC manufacturers, including Lenovo, Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., have released versions.

Market research firm NPD reports Chromebook sales jumped nearly 300 percent in 2013, with units shipped skyrocketing from 400,000 in 2012 to 1.76 million in 2013.

The brisk sales have surprised manufacturers and resellers. Samsung reported selling 1 million last year, mostly in the U.S. to the education segment. HP CEO Meg Whitman says the growing demand is evidence that there is room in the market for multiple operating systems.

Should solution providers jump on the Chromebook bandwagon?

While Chromebook represents only a fraction of the Windows install base, Microsoft is still taking no chances. The company saw the growing demand when it launched its “Scroogled” marketing campaign to discredit the Chromebook as “not a PC.” Yet, despite its efforts, Microsoft hasn’t been able to blunt its progress.

Chromebook is doing very well in the education segment, where it’s mostly displacing Apple. For decades, the easy-to-use Apple platform has been the mainstay of school computers, the main drawback being cost. The low-cost PCs are popular among school systems, a segment where solution providers play well, because of their ease of use and easy replacement.

Surprisingly, though, Chromebooks are popular among business users, too. Vendors and solution providers report business users are looking at purchasing them because of their relative costs to usability.

Chromebooks have a long way to go before they become a significant threat to either Microsoft or Apple. However, the Web-based devices are fast becoming an essential product for PC resellers to have in their portfolio.

This article originally appeared on