It’s easy to dismiss Chromebooks with a simple statement: “There’s nothing you can do on a Chromebook that you couldn’t do with a Windows, Linux, or OS X laptop with the Chrome browser installed.” And that’s kind of true… but it also misses a few points. First, sometimes less is more — and Chromebooks are designed to be good at fewer things rather than mediocre at more.

Second, Chromebooks tend to be cheaper than most laptops.

I suspect it’s the latter point that helps explain why Chromebooks have dominated Amazon’s laptop sales charts at the end of 2013. And it’s not just Amazon. NPD Group estimates that 21 percent of all notebook sales in 2013 were Chromebooks.

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According to Amazon, two of the three best-selling laptops during the holiday season were Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung. These little Chrome OS laptops tend to sell for $200 and up.

The third model? That was the Asus Transformer Book T100, a 10 inch Windows tablet/notebook hybrid which sells for under $400.

The takeaway? People seem to be spending their pocket change on cheap laptops.

Whether this means they’re sold on Google’s vision of a browser-based operating system remains to be seen. They might just be sold on cheap laptops.

A few years ago, netbooks topped best-seller charts, but those inexpensive, small, and low-power laptops have pretty much faded away in recent years (although you could make the case that Chromebooks and cheap convertibles like the Asus T100 are their spiritual successors). I’m not sure I’d say netbooks were a fad — they disappeared at least as much due to PC vendors shifting their focus to devices with higher profit margins as they did to consumer preference for tablets and larger laptops. But one year’s sales figures do not a trend make.

Still, 2013 has been a good year for those of us who are fond of portable, inexpensive laptops.

via Computer World

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39 replies on “Chromebooks climb up the notebook sales charts”

  1. I bet Big Brother is salivating over the idea of 100% of what one does on an end-point being transferred to “The Cloud” for easy interception by Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

    One can hardly blame Google, though. This is a cliff the industry has been driving us toward for years. Google – think I will keep my data local with some semblance of privacy, Thanks!

    Suddenly “The Cloud” is starting look more like “The Fog”….

  2. I love my Samsung Google Chromebook with NO Metro Tiles and NO WinTel Inside!

  3. What I’d like to know is how many of those Chromebooks stayed with the customer rather than being returned. The refurbished market is pretty glutted with Acer Chromebooks at the moment.

    I personally feel Chromebooks are between a rock and a hard place:

    1. Android tablets with a light, touch-based consumption oriented UI with a much larger software base,

    2, Slim form factor full windows laptops that allow you to get some real work done, and the freedom of choise of OS, again with a much wider software base.

    And now with cheap convertibles like the Asus T100 which could be both…I find Chromebooks relevance to be slipping further away.

    Unless Google is playing for the technology averse geriatric market,…

    1. 200 USD and it works FASTER than a 800 USD MS WOS machine
      Xandros Linux market, the first ASUS Eee did the same, BUT MS payed ASUS to kill that market that with MS WOS was awful.

      Any nix as IOS Android Chrome OS Ubuntu SUSE or Manjaro is better and faster than MS, and very low and very high specs machines are the key factor.

      If I where OEM I would put now Ubuntu or SUSE or RedHat books and AIO with the same Chrome OS hardware but with 500 GBs hybrids HDDs to provide cheap local plus net computers too at least at the international market – Chromebooks are almost a only USA product – not having to invest in product design.

      A lot of XP machines will be switched to 200 to 300 USDs laptops and AIO ,and no need for more than 720p screens CHEAP sells

      1. I think you are missing the point I am trying to make. I’m not here to debate which OS is best, I’m saying Chromebooks are stuck between consumer grade OS like Android and full featured OS like linux and windows without many of the benefits of either.

        1. I agree, especially if Google continues to develop Android that Chrome could quickly become redundant… Or worse, if Google fails to get developers to develop a proper app ecosystem for Chrome.

          There’s no shortage of competition starting to come out anyway, with not only the finally affordable Windows devices but Ubuntu Touch and other alternatives starting to come out as well…

  4. 20% of notebook sales is a huge advancement.

    If this number is correct, then the brass at M$ can get really worried.

    1. Well, Amazon isn’t really representative of the entire market… They were showing Chromebooks selling at number 1 even when they still only represented a fraction of the market.

      The main thing is the absence of netbooks has left a void that Chromebooks can help fill, especially if most of the alternatives are still priced higher… The T100 is the first form of competition to come out since netbooks were discontinued… So, it’s not like there’s a lot of competition prior to the end of 2013 but we’ll see where it goes from here…

      Mind, markets shifts all the time… it’s the question of sustainability that will determine if this is just another shift or whether its a real trend…

  5. I have no doubt that Chromebooks can be useful. They’ve come a long way from when they were first released. I’m thinking the low price has the most to do with any success it has. I still don’t see how Chromebooks can get away with being so limited. In fact “less is more” is often cited as a positive somehow. Yet, Windows RT which is similar in terms of trying to limit the user experience to make things simpler for the user has mostly been heavily criticized for being limited. If I were to choose between a Chromebook and RT device I would probably choose the RT device.

  6. I like Chromebooks but need to use some Windows only software. I wish there was a free/inexpensive “virtualbox in the cloud” that worked exactly like virtualbox but in the cloud and you’d start it by logging in somewhere through a tab in chrome.

    1. There are such things. Look at Amazon Workspaces and Desktone. They are just not available to consumers yet.

    2. You can use CROUTON plus wine, but perhaps better to install real Ubuntu SUSE Manjaro Antergos Sabayon or any GNU/Linux distro in order to have virtualbox – not possible with CROUTON – or some GNOME3 boxes.

      I think this same Chromebooks must be also offered perhaps with an hybrid HDD as Ubuntubooks or SUSE books or Red Hat books, specially the AIO models

  7. I have been using a Samsung ARM Chromebook as my main personal machine for over a year now (at work I use a Win7 PC, and previously a Mac Pro). I had already been using gmail, android and google docs (the ability to work one a document at work and then continue at home or any other machine without the need to download/edit/upload is awesome).

    So the chromebook allows me to do anything I need (google docs, gmail, online, G+ photos, Evernote, Google Keep). I rarely see any lag even with 10+ tabs, the device is completely quiet and lasts for many hours (I have never run out of battery). And if it gets stolen, lost, broken….it’s not a big deal at this price.

    The two things that I have missed are Skype (I use my phone for that or Hangouts on the chromebook), and SPSS or any serious statistical software. For that I had to remote connect to my Mac Pro and run the software that way. For me that was even better, since most laptops would not be able to handle that kind of software in the same level the Mac Pro would.

    Additional benefits: airplane wifi passes, 100Gb of Drive space, no virus/compatibility/errors/windows plagues/etc.

  8. Missing significant fact … On the subject of cheapness.
    The number 3 item (Asus T100) at $399 is 2X the price of numbers 1 and 2 and the next more expensive item on the list is at number 13 – a Macbook Pro at $2500.

    That’s quite an achievement in a world where people gravitate towards cheap stuff.

    1. Well, part of it is also restricted options; if you want to drop serious coin on a high-end Mac OS laptop, you pretty much have to get a MacBook Pro. If you want to do the same on a high-end Windows laptop, you can get a Dell XPS, an Alienware, an HP Envy, a Razer, etc. Limited options ends up consolidating sales numbers, while varied options dilutes them.

      Also, the Macbook Pro is at position 15, not 13.

  9. Are you sure that is the why? I do think it was because the FAST Xandros Linux was replaced by the SLOW MS WOS.

    Now Chrome OS with LINUX kernel is FASTER at this CHEAP machines, even running CROUTON – GNU/Linux – good for Google, a shame for Ubuntu, SUSE and Red Hat and every brand that was not able to see that Linux + CHEAP machines are FASTER than x2 or x3 priced machines with MS WOS.

    And better machines also run better with Linux SUSE-KDE, Ubuntu-Unity, Fedora-Gnome, ElementaryOS-E17 are great OSs waiting for a brand to put at their machines and the last Intel Chromebooks hardware is great enough, even more other hardware.

    Customers also will love this OSs installed, and if they really NEED MS WOS, do not worry they will buy and install it ¿No? or buy the same model paying for the OS a plus.

    “They disappeared at least as much due to PC vendors shifting their focus to devices with higher profit margins as they did to consumer preference for tablets and larger laptops”

    1. It’s been reported, theorized that Microsoft intentionally killed the growing netbook market by forcing OEMs to offer a gimped version of Windows 7 on netbooks, which caused their prices to go up and performance go down. Chromebooks are the successors, but this time Google has somehow managed to convince the major OEMs to stand their ground against Microsoft.

      1. Google’s main argument was probably related to Android. I could imagine something like this: “Start producing ChromeBooks or you will be a second-class citizen when it comes to supporting your Android hw developments.”

        1. Maybe. But I wonder how much leverage Google would have had in the early days of Android for tablets: Acer, Asus and HP could have held off making tablets until Microsoft got their act together with Windows. I think a simple explanation is that these OEMs simply needed to find other products to sell to compensate for the slowing PC market in general that began at the turn of the decade, and the success of Chromebooks is perhaps giving them leverage now against Microsoft over Windows licensing. They’re winning just as Google is winning due to the surprise success of Chromebooks.

  10. Brad, your article is spot on. The only things I would add are

    – Netbooks faded away because their initial allures, low price,

    portability, low price) were more than offset by (to manufacturers)

    their low margin, (to end users) too many compromises (wimpy

    performance and too short battery life, no thanks to Intel, who

    eventually got it right with Bay Trail, cramped keyboards–Americans

    are big people with big hands, no touch screen friendly OS–no thanks

    to Microsoft, lack of compelling fun apps (who wants to use

    Office vs. play Angry Birds?),

    – the emergence of the web and Internet. Think of all the new
    media that have emerged since netbook days: Facebook, Twitter,
    Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube. It’s now possible to “live”
    in the web. In the netbook era, there were only chat rooms,
    MySpace and Skype.

    – tablets have carried the netbook mantra even further. Tablets
    are even lighter (less than 1 lb for some), have much longer battery
    life (10 hours is a norm), have access to speedy 4G networks,
    are instant-on, have touch friendly OSs with hundreds of thousands
    of apps, most of them free. And gobs of content is available online.

    Many of these developments were started with the introduction of
    the ARM-powered iPhone, and accelerated by the iPad. In turn,

    Google worked with ARM to capitalize on developments with

    Android and Chromebook.

  11. these laptops are very nice, long battery life, cheap, and for older family members its easy to use and hard to get virus’s on

    1. I would say it’s actually impossible to get a virus on one because of their basic security design. If you come across an infected website–it cannot spread to other tabs or the device itself because of the sandboxing built into the system.

      1. It’s not impossible, nothing is 100% foolproof, and you can be infected for a session of use but rebooting usually will clear anything that doesn’t hack into the system and get past its defenses. So it’s mainly nothing persistent most of the time… it’ll take a serious advance attack to be of any real concern but you still have to watch out for phishing and other similar scams as nothing stops user error type attacks if you just give your information away!

        Though, there is always the danger of the servers being attacked, problem with online computing is a hacker can attack it 24/7… but that’s a group threat to all users and not individuals and again would require a seriously advance attack that isn’t that common…

  12. My T100 has some random bugs sometimes, not rotating, touch issues in Chrome, Steam issues. But it’s pretty good, I just usually expect more from Windows. At least out of the box with no bloat.

    1. Experience varies, budget models of that type tend to have random issues but don’t necessarily effect everyone.

      So can vary from needing to replace the whole system to minor bugs or nothing wrong at all… There are some issues with 8.1 itself but mainly just need better developed drivers for more consistent reliability.

      Hopefully, most of it will be dealt with once they go full 64bit on Bay Trail…

  13. I like the idea, but I like the thought of local control much more.
    I know how to manage a machine.

    1. I think the real point here is all those people who do not know how to manage a machine and would rather not have to control anything – just use the websites they want. I’m thinking of all the people I’ve met who tried to download something they needed to install but couldn’t figure out where they downloaded it to.

  14. In my family every one of us have a Windows or Linux laptop and a family Chromebook as a second machine, but in the last year we started using more and more the Chromebook, and we use to fight for the Chromebook, and being only $200 it’s a nice Christmas present, now we have one Chromebook for each of us and not more fighting.

      1. A controlled-app-market experience, built ontop of a free-as-in-speech OS, with a simple but very pretty gui, that is less flexible than other options, but what it does it does well, and much less likely to get infected by worms and viruses. It’s not a perfect 1-to-1, but the similarities are there.

        1. I wouldn’t say perfect 1 to 1, OSX can be infected a lot easier than Chrome and has had fairly major infections before that effected a good number of OSX users before Apple could patch the flaw. Only after that happened that Apple beefed up its security to provide any real protection but nothing is fool proof and they don’t update their security as often as MS does with Windows…

          Windows mainly gets a bad rap because it’s the most used OS and thus gets attacked the most… A more open system also tends to be more vulnerable but that’s a cost of being more flexible…

          While Apple security for years was mainly obscurity, being used by less than 10% of users made it a very unlikely target.

          Though, you can do more with OSX than you can with Chrome as the counter difference, besides one being a traditional OS and the other a Cloud OS…

          1. I believe a 10% market share is enough for criminal elements to develop viruses and exploits for an operating system. Especially if that 10% user-base is wealthier than the average by a wide margin (Macs are fairly expensive so they filter their user base)

          2. 10% isn’t enough for most, most criminals want to use minimum effort with maximum gains and for well over a decade the only target to provide that was the Windows market!

            It’s like all the identity theft, phishing scams, etc… They don’t go after the upper 10% but the majority of middle class and poorer people…

            Mind, it’s a lot harder for law enforcement to track millions of attacks versus just a few targeted attacks… and the rich can also afford much better security anyway…

            So, 10% is enough to start getting noticed but nowhere near enough to get the shear number of attacks that something that still has over 80% of the market.

            Besides, phishing, and other scams can work on any platform and don’t need to target a specific platform as they target the users instead and even for Windows most attacks these days are based on taking advantage of user errors instead of exploiting any system vulnerabilities.

          3. Re Apple security:

            The “security through obscurity” talking point is mostly myth that has been parroted for years.

            OS X is and always has been a Unix variant (BSD, more specifically). Therefore, executables can only happen from the root directory. Not DLLs, remote procedure calls, or registry hacks as in Windows.

            With all the “I’m a Mac” commercials of a few years ago touting its security advantage over Windows, do you really think no one would have liked to embarrass them? Just what are these “major infections” of OS X of which you speak? Please, name one.

            Melissa, Code Red, ILOVEYOU, Stuxnet, Nimda, MyDoom, Sapphire, Klez, Storm Worm, and thousands more attacked Windows machines with much publicized success, not because Windows was/is so popular, but because it is easier to do, and Apple updates their OS less often than Microsoft does Windows because it is less necessary. The vulnerabilities are far fewer.

          4. Sorry, but the only myth is you trying to describe OSX as always being a Unix variant!

            OS X’s kernel wasn’t strictly a Unix-based OS to begin with! It started as XNU, and was a monolithic (non micro) hybrid of both Mach And BSD kernel components.

            Many people just thought that OS X was a pure Unix (BSD) kernel.but that was not the case. In fact, XNU is actually an acronym for “X is Not Unix”!

            Really, being based on something that’s secure by no way means it inherits the default security of the original! This has always been the assumption but it was proven wrong!

            OSX lacked many of the natural security that Unix provides by default, for most the last decade OSX was extremely vulnerable to attack… This was demonstrated regularly at hacking competitions that showed OSX to be one of the easiest to hack.

            So no, the security through obscurity was a fact of life for Apple that they capitalized to promote a false sense of security for most of the early years of OSX

            And no OS is fool proof, not even Unix, to begin with! There’s always flaws, especially when continuously introducing new features and any new code, etc on a regular basis as any mainstream OS does regularly!

            Even Linux, with its active community of users, still has had vulnerabilities that were patched after over a decade! Anything that constantly changes can’t ensure it’s always secure!

            It wasn’t until OSX was finally hit with a fairly bad infection that effected well over 10 thousand of its users that they finally switched gears and only then did they start implementing security features that finally started making OSX more like Unix.

            So, don’t confuse how secure OSX is now with how it started and don’t confuse it’s origins with it being naturally more secure as that was not the case!

            Fact is Windows gets hit regularly with thousand upon thousands of attacks… The only reason it seems more vulnerable is because it’s designed to be a mostly open system to give its users the most control without getting into the technical side like Linux users typically get into.

            But Windows systems aren’t overwhelmed by infections because despite its open nature MS has taken the steps to make it more secure to the point most attacks aren’t exploits but scams that take advantage of user errors… something that I already pointed out can effect any platform no matter how secure!

            So, fact is none of the other OS have ever faced the onslaught of attacks that Windows endures regularly!

            Btw, I’ve used Macs, those ads were mostly BS and most professionals knew it already! Macs crash, macs need servicing, etc like any other computer!

            The main thing that made Macs more stable was the fact its users didn’t load random junk on their systems all the time. Or played games that would corrupt the drives over time. Or things of that nature… Having a regulated software ecosystem has its advantages but for anyone who needed to do work and work with different software than the average Mac user quickly found out it was just another PC with just a different OS!

            Sure, people could have been more vocal about showing Macs were actually vulnerable but Apple users are very defensive and it’s never easy talking people to accepting something is wrong with what they want to believe is perfect.

            Just replying with demand to show a real world example of an attack was enough in their minds to dismiss any evidence to the contrary… Defending Apple by the just the fact that no one has really bothered was the defense for most of those years… It was only after they actually had a serious attack that Apple finally took security seriously…

            Really, why do you think they finally made OSX really secure after the Flashback attack but not before? Why do you think they started doing regular security updates like MS has been doing for years? Why do you think it took over three weeks for Apple to solve the issue with that serious Flashback attack?

            So let’s stop the fantasy of pretending what was advertised was ever reality!

            The reality is there are many ways to attack any system and while some may be more secure to withstand certain attacks, it really only means attackers have to just figure out other ways to attack the system instead and eventually they will!

            In the end, it’s the users that really determine how secure a system is by how they use their systems and how careful they really are but nothing is ever 100%!

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