updated 04:18 pm EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
Sales up 79 percent over previous year, sales expected to hit 14.4 million units by 2017
Research firm Gartner released a report today over the growth of the Chromebook market so far this year. In the report, the firm states that Chromebooks are expected to sell 5.2 million units by the conclusion of 2014. This marks a substantial growth over the previous year for the low-cost notebooks, powered by Google's cloud-based operating system.
Chromebooks offer a cheap but online-dependent computing solution, generally between $200 to $300 in the United States. The notebooks require an Internet connection for most use, as they utilize Google's suite of productivity apps, Google Play for any additional apps and run Chrome OS that is always kept up to date without a fee. A handful of companies currently make Chromebooks with different hardware options, including Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba.
"Competition in the Chromebook market is intensifying as more vendors launch Chromebooks, with eight models in the market in 2014," said Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner. "Now that the PC market is no longer growing strongly, vendors are searching for new business opportunities. They launched Chromebooks to revive interest in sub-$300 portable PCs once the netbook bubble had burst."
The 5.2 million estimate figure represents an increase of 79 percent from the previous year. In 2013, 2.9 million Chromebooks were sold, mostly for education purposes in the United States. Garner estimates that 85 percent of Chromebook sales in 2013 were tied to education, indicating that the devices may still be considered too limited for mass appeal. Of the 2.9 million units sold, 82 percent of those were sold in North America.
It appears that while education is purchasing the bulk of the devices, business are still having a hard time adopting the affordable notebooks. Durand adds that business have looked into the devices, but haven't made the leap to the cloud-based services that could lead to a less hardware management. Gartner expects Chromebook sales to hit 14.4 million units by 2017. Getting business to buy into them will require proving the value of the cloud services.
Samsung and Acer lead sales for Chromebooks so far, due in part to their early adoption of the notebooks in 2011. According to data from July, Samsung holds nearly 65 percent of the market, while Acer is just over 21 percent. Samsung sold 1.7 million units in 2013.
"Making a competitive Chromebook is not just a matter of hardware and price; what is most important is to show how the device's cloud-based architecture provides genuine advantages to users," said Durand.
For now, the market for Chromebooks is growing. As a number of education services move away from the one-size-fits-all approach that is often applied to tablets, the market could continue to see education expansion. The units can be done for a much lower price as well, since even iPads with bulk education discounts are hard pressed to reach $400 a unit (though there is a significant difference in total cost of ownership [TCO] between the two platforms). With Google announcing nearly 20 new Chromebooks this year, and further educational initiative expansion, some growth could certainly be in the cards for the ultrabooks.