Chromebooks Sales Growing But Still A Drop In The Devices Ocean

Chromebook sales are rising, fueled predominantly by the North American education sector, but despite some increase in sales the Google OS-powered laptops will remain a niche market for next five years, according to analyst Gartner.

The analyst identifies the key challenge to uptake being vendors coming up with ways to illuminate how the machine’s cloud-based architecture can offer users an advantage over laptops that aren’t designed to be always online. So really Chromebooks need some killer apps to prove their worth — above and beyond being ad terminals for Mountain View.

Putting out its latest Chromebooks forecast, entitled Competitive Landscape: Chromebooks, Worldwide, Gartner said it expects sales of the Internet-connected laptops which run Google’s Chrome OS to reach 5.2 million units this year — up 79 per cent on last year’s sales. By 2017 it’s predicting sales of Chromebooks will almost triple to reach 14.4 million units.

For some relative context, last month Gartner said it expects a total of 308 million PCs to ship this year (which includes laptops, desktops, ultramobiles and hybrids), along with 256 million tablets. So Chromebooks remain a drop in the devices ocean.

Increased levels of Chromebook growth are being driven by more vendors choosing to build the machines as they look for growth opportunities beyond the stagnant PC market, according to Gartner, and post the netbook bubble bursting. The analyst notes there are eight Chromebook models in the market this year.

Chromebook first movers Samsung and Acer were the two dominant vendors in 2013, with Samsung shipping 1.7 million units to take a 64.9% market share, while Acer grabbed around a fifth of the market (21.4%). (And just announced its new model.) Meanwhile HP (6.8%), Lenovo (6.7%) and Dell (0.3%) took home the Chromebook scraps.

On the demand side, in 2013 the education sector accounted for nearly 85 per cent of Chromebook sales. And North America also made up the majority of the market — with 82 per cent of the 2.9 million Chromebooks sold in 2013 going to that region.