More than 1 million Chromebooks were sold to schools in the second quarter, the latest indicator of the surging popularity of the low-cost notebooks.
The news, announced by Google officials July 21, came a week after analysts at NPD Group said in a report that Chromebook sales between January and May in the commercial channel in the United States jumped 250 percent over the same period last year and accounted for 35 percent of all notebook sales through the channel. During the first three weeks of June, that number bumped up to 40 percent.
And that 250 percent increase occurred before the back-to-school buying season begins, according to the analysts.
"Building on last year’s surprising strength, Chrome’s unit strength ahead of this year’s education buying season shows how it has become a legitimate third platform alongside [Microsoft's] Windows and [Apple's] Mac OS X and iOS," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD Group, said in a statement following the June 14 release of its report. "The next test for Chrome will clearly be the most difficult, as both Apple and Microsoft get more aggressive in pricing and deal making over the next few months. By the end of the third quarter, we will have a much clearer picture of the long-term impact Chromebooks will have in the commercial channel."
The popularity of these systems, which run Google's Chrome operating system, continues to climb as consumers and businesses look for low-cost alternatives to traditional notebooks and tablets, such as Apple's iPad. In a guest post on Google's blog, David Andrade, CIO for Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut, said Chromebooks were the best option for his school district, which is struggling with tight budgets, a small IT staff and a student body in which many students don't have outside access to computers.
"The affordability and easy maintenance of Chromebooks clinched the deal—we could buy three Chromebooks for the price of a single desktop computer and the district’s small IT team wouldn’t have to struggle to keep up with the repairs and updates on aging PCs," Andrade wrote, adding that he first tried a Chromebook when Google sent him one in 2010 to test. "We would also save on support time and costs since Chromebooks update automatically."
Another key capability was access to Google's cloud-based applications, he said.
"We decided to start using Google Apps for Education so every student would have an email address, something we’d never been able to do before," Andrade wrote. "We also used Google Drive to move student documents off of our internal file storage system—another way to save the IT team time and money. So they can now work together and communicate with teachers even while not in the classroom."
The Bridgeport school system initially bought 4,000 Chromebooks for its high schools and has since expanded the number of Chromebooks being used in the system to 9,000.
Most systems OEMs and component makers like Intel have embraced Chromebooks. According to NPD Group figures, during the first five months of 2013, Samsung held an 88 percent share of Chromebook sales, followed by Acer at 7 percent and all the other vendors at 5 percent. A year later, Samsung is still the leader, but with 48 percent the market, with Acer at 31 percent, Hewlett-Packard at 17 percent and the others at 4 percent.