Android And Chrome OS Could Reap Big Windfalls From Slowing Worldwide PC Economy

The global PC market is shrinking, and continues to trend downward according to recent numbers, which means there are a lot of concerned device-makers looking around for what to do next. Acer is one of those companies, and the firm is looking to pin the blame on Windows and find a better option, according to the WSJ. That might be a very popular tune in the next few years from other OEMs like Acer, and that’s great news for Google.

Acer is looking to mitigate its PC market losses by growing its non-Windows business, and by doing that fast. Android is the logical choice for smartphone and tablet plans, and Acer President Jim Wang told investors during his company’s quarterly results conference call last night that he “sees a new market there for Chromebooks.”

Already, Acer makes the C7 Chromebook, a $199 device that has a lot in common with netbooks of the past but that runs Chrome OS, Google’s desktop operating system that pretty much takes the Chrome browser and extends its capabilities somewhat. Chrome OS and Android devices are expected to make up around 10 to 12 percent of Acer’s revenue by year’s end, per Wang, and that could climb as high as 30 percent by the end of 2014. Chromebooks made up around 3 percent of Acer’s total PC shipments in Q2 2013, which doesn’t sound like much but shows impressive growth for a largely experimental OS that’s launching into an extremely entrenched market.

The situation is similar to what other PC makers are seeing. Asus Chairman Jonney Shih basically said Windows RT isn’t helping out with its slowing PC sales, and the company is clearly seeing enough interest in its Nexus 7 devices to partner up with Google for another round with the new version launched just this past month.

In the past, Apple has been the beneficiary of a slumping PC market; iPad sales have progressively increased as PC sales have slowed, making it seem like there’s a direct correlation there that would see Apple’s tablets satisfy customers to the point where they’d eventually mostly op for iPads instead of Windows-based notebooks. But iPad sales were actually down last quarter, for the first time ever. That might just be attributable to a new release cycle that saw no new iPad hardware released in early 2013, but it could also be a sign that there are others who stand to gain from the PC sales slump.

Tablets based on Google’s mobile OS have been slow to find their audience, but they’re picking up pace, in a way that Windows hasn’t been able to match in that market. Chrome OS devices might still be a tiny fraction of the notebook market, but they at least represent a different approach with seemingly growing appeal – something that can’t necessarily be said for Windows 8 just yet. If consumers are souring on traditional PCs, it makes sense that OEMs would put more stock in something like Chrome OS that has a chance to accomplish something different, than in the more or less business-as-usual approach of Microsoft, which is actually peeling back some of the more innovative aspects of its Windows 8 platform with the upcoming 8.1 update.

Google has a number of things going for it in terms of being able to capitalize on PC industry slowdown: Its licensing model means it can harness the need of existing OEMs to put their existing infrastructure to good use; it already powers the most successful mobile operating system on the planet, in terms of broad adoption; and it’s a name and brand that has recognition and trust worldwide.

Once upon a time, there was no reason to take a risk on experiments like Android for tablets or Chrome OS for notebooks for OEMs like Acer, as Windows was a comfortable and secure platform investment from which to milk revenue. That’s no longer the case, and that could be a very good thing in terms of shaking up a mostly tired consumer PC device market.