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.
Google Sells 1 Million Chromebooks to Schools in Q2
Dell officials earlier this month said the company’s Chromebook 11, which launched in December 2013, proved so popular that the vendor was unable to keep up with the demand and pulled the system off of its Web site until more came in.
Microsoft is pushing back at the rapid Chromebook sales. Earlier this year, officials reportedly were cutting the price of Windows 8.1 OS to help spur development and adoption of low-cost Windows systems. In addition at its Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 this month, COO Kevin Turner reportedly told attendees that HP will release a $199 Windows-based laptop in time for the holiday season.
Microsoft also has a Website outlining why Windows systems are better than Chromesbooks, saying the Google devices were not much good for anything other than surfing the Web and using Web apps.
According to NPD Group analysts, overall client shipments rose by 1 million units in the first five months of the year with sales of Apple’s Macbook jumping more than 20 percent while Windows notebook sales were flat—though sales of Windows desktops in the commercial channel increased by 25 percent, due in part to Microsoft ending support for Windows XP and the general PC refresh cycle for businesses.
Overall, the market for commercial PCs and other devices is strong, NDP Group’s Baker said.
“The commercial channel for client devices has been undergoing considerable change over the last few years,” he said. “The advent of tablets and Chromebooks, and the introduction of Windows 8 have all combined to make the market much more volatile than it has been in the past. But the bottom line is that despite reports to the contrary the market for desktops and notebooks sold through the channel in the U.S. has never been better.”