Laptops running Google's browser-based operating system are resonating with buyers.
Google's Chromebook gamble is beginning to pay off. Acer, one of Google's Chrome OS hardware partners, has reported that Chromebooks accounted for 5% to 10% of the company's U.S. computer shipments since the company released its C7 Chromebook in November.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Acer president Jim Wong said he expected that sales ratio to continue and that the company is considering adding other Chromebook models.
IDC's preliminary estimate for Acer's U.S. PC shipments during Q4 2012 is 803,000 (the final number is due next month). Gartner's number is a higher, at 1,377,824. And it was a particularly bad quarter for PC sales. IDC noted that "the launch of Windows 8, its impact did not quickly change recently sluggish PC demand" and that for the first time in five years, the PC market saw a year-on-year decline during holiday season.
An Acer spokeswoman confirmed Wong's remarks, but declined to provide specific U.S. sales numbers. She said, "Chrome sales in the U.S. market for November and December accounted for 5-10% of Acer's U.S. sales during those two months." The company's November and December U.S. sales probably account for about two-thirds of its total U.S. PC shipments during the three-month quarter, or somewhere between 538,010 (IDC) and 923,142 (Gartner).
So that 5-10% figure falls into the range of 26,900 Chromebooks on the low end to 92,314 Chromebooks on the high end, assuming we equate PC shipments to PC sales. In reality, some of those shipments remain on retailers' shelves unsold. All told, these are not massive numbers, but they're a bit better than the 5,000-unit Acer Cromia 700 sales figure reported by Taiwan-based Digitimes in November 2011.
How times have changed. During Google's recent earnings call, CEO Larry Page said the Samsung Chromebook was "a holiday highlight," but he did not report any sales figures. The company's Chromebook hardware partners Acer and Samsung have been equally circumspect, until now.
However, as Page hinted, Samsung's third-generation Chromebook appears to have sold well over the holiday season and is still doing so. It remains atop the Amazon laptop best seller list, having spent the last 103 days in the top 100.
Perhaps more telling is the fact that more hardware partners are working with Google. Lenovo earlier this month introduced a ruggedized ThinkPad Chromebook for schools. And marketing material uncovered by online news site Slashgear indicates that HP is planning to announce a Chromebook next month, on February 17.
Google and HP declined to comment. But you can read the writing on the wall: There's a market for inexpensive laptops that aren't vulnerable to most malware, that don't have to be updated constantly, that boot quickly and that don't put data at risk by storing it locally.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.