Chromebooks may have gotten off to a slow start when they first hit the streets in 2011. But now Acer CEO Jim Wong says Chromebooks are making up 5 to 10 percent of the company’s shipments since the launch of the $199 Acer C7 Chromebook in November.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Wong says the company thinks that trend will continue — at least in part because Windows 8 hasn’t generated a lot of excitement.
Normally PC sales go up after Microsoft releases a new version of its flagship operating system, but that didn’t happen after Windows 8 was launched in October. Instead, Acer’s shipments were down in the 4th quarter of 2012 when compared with the prior year.
Chromebooks, on the other hand, are inexpensive laptops that offer strong security — both because they’re virtually immune to viruses, and because most of your data is stored in the cloud. If your Chromebook is lost or destroyed, you can pretty much pick up where you left off just by opening a new Chromebook and logging in with your username and password.
While Acer is selling Chromebooks at very low prices, I suspect it also doesn’t cost the company very much to build them. The Acer Aspire C7 Chromebook is basically what you get when you take an Aspire One 756 and replaces the Windows software with Chrome OS — so it’s a machine that Acer’s been building for a while, using inexpensive components.
For many folks, a Chromebook isn’t a true replacement for a Windows computer. You can’t run Microsoft Office, iTunes, or Photoshop on a Chromebook. In fact, the only software you can run are web apps that you open in a web browser, because you can’t install anything at all on a Chromebook (unless you hack it to run Ubuntu or another Linux-based OS).
If you’re cool running web apps to listen to music, edit documents or photos, or perform other activities, a Chromebook does offer an inexpensive and secure alternative to Windows computers. But Windows 8 offers a more versatile solution for users who want to run legacy apps or other software that’s only available for Windows.
Acer isn’t the only company offering Chromebooks. Samsung also offers a $249 model with a Samsung Exynos 5250 ARM-based processor and a $449 Chromebook with an Intel Celeron CPU. It’s the Windows-like price of the higher end model that may have contributed to the slow start for Chrome OS laptops, but now that companies are offering models that cost far less than a typical Windows laptop, sales seem to be doing well.
There’s usually at least one Chromebook in Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops (right now the Samsung Chromebook tops the list).