Where Are All The Chromebooks? - InformationWeek
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Where Are All The Chromebooks?

Despite brisk Chromebook sales, online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely registers with those measuring Web traffic.

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By many accounts, Chromebooks are flying off store shelves. But wherever they're landing, they're doing so without leaving tracks. Online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely registers with those measuring Web traffic.

There's little doubt outside of Microsoft -- which insists Chromebooks are not real PCs -- that the Chrome operating system had a breakout year in 2013. After a slow start in 2011, Chromebooks now account for 21% of notebook computers sold in the US, according to NPD Group. Two in three of the best-selling laptops on Amazon during the 2013 holiday season were Chromebooks. Google's Chromebook hardware partners now include eight of the top computer makers in the world.

Chitika, an online advertising network and Yahoo partner, recently concluded a five-month study of Chrome OS and Linux Web usage growth. The company found that the Chrome OS drives 0.2% of desktop Web traffic in North America.

That represents a doubling of Chrome OS traffic in September 2013, when Chitika's study began. But in the overall scheme of things, Chromebook-generated Web traffic remains insignificant. Chrome OS Web traffic is about a tenth of desktop Linux Web traffic in North America.

[Which tablet do businesses still love? Read iPad Dominates Enterprise Tablet Market.]

Chitika notes that although Linux has always been considered a niche product on the desktop, Google's marketing efforts point to grand ambitions for Chrome OS. The company suggests that the modest growth of Chrome OS highlights the domestic PC market slowdown.

"[T]his could mean that either those new Chrome OS users don't collectively browse the Web all that much using their device, or that the Chromebooks/Chromeboxes themselves are not collectively being used at a high rate in general," said Chitika analyst Andrew Waber in an email.

Nontheless, the firm says that Google's recent decision to collaborate with VMware to offer virtualized Windows desktops on Chromebooks should encourage further Chrome OS adoption among businesses.

Judging Chrome OS by use of hardware risks missing the larger picture. Web usage offers only limited insight into the significance of a market. Apple's iOS still accounts for more Web usage than Android, but the days when that suggested Android could not complete are long gone.

What's more, Chromebooks are only part of the Google landscape. The Chrome browser really should be included, too, because the Chrome operating system doesn't offer any software that isn't also available in Google's browser.

Perhaps the best way to measure the success of Chromebooks is to look at Microsoft's reaction. When Chromebooks debuted, Microsoft ignored them. Now they're being trashed in Microsoft's marketing. Clearly, Microsoft thinks they matter. In time, Chromebooks will show up more prominently in Web traffic graphs.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 3:58:35 PM
Bought for a mobile use purpose?
Good commentary, Tom. You may be right, but there's still scant proof Chromebooks will one day amount to a sizeable segment of Web traffic. Right now, that's more intuition than fact. Could it be Chromebooks are purchased for use with Google Search and Google Apps, while on the move, and their owners continue using phones and laptops most of the time?
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 4:19:49 PM
Re: Bought for a mobile use purpose?
One place where Chromebooks are showing up is in education. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Chromebooks grabbed nearly a fifth of U.S. K-12 purchases of mobile computers last year.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 4:56:00 PM
Re: Bought for a mobile use purpose?
>Could it be Chromebooks are purchased for use with Google Search and Google Apps, while on the move, and their owners continue using phones and laptops most of the time?

Among power users that seems to be the case. Chromebooks seem to be popular among those traveling to security conferences. I suspect those devices purchased for educational institutions are used for web surfing less often than personal or business devices, and that may contribute to the low traffic numbers of Chrome OS.
User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2014 | 5:09:52 PM
Here's cloud in yer eye
While Chromebooks have a lot of notches in the plus column, the biggest negative by far is that it is virtually useless w/o a decent web connection speed. It also assumes the user is big on the cloud for both storage as well as SaaS, and, both of these items require a degree of tech sophisticstion which rules out the great majority of the average American consumer. Unless/until the cloud becomes ubiquitous, I don't expect to see gargantuan gains in the marketplace for Chromebooks among any other segments s but school aged demographic.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 5:47:56 PM
Re: Here's cloud in yer eye
It would appear that asksqn is not familar with Chromebooks to any significent degree.  He first perpetuates the myth that Chromebooks must be connected to the internet with a fast connection to be any use at all.  He must have gotten is information for Scroogle!  He continues his nonsense rant against Chromebooks by suggesting that you must be a sophisticated computer user to use Cloud based storage and services.  The most sophisticated action you need to use a Chromebook is remembering you Chromebook password.  Perhaps he believes that management of patch Tuesday, personal firewalls and anti-virus software is a trivial operation for the average American consumer.

Wake up and smell the coffee!  The Cloud is ubiquitous.  If you have an Internet connection, you are connected to the Cloud.

Hint:  School age computer users grow up to be adult comuter users is a few short years.  How are you going to wean them off of Chromebooks after they leave school?
User Rank: Moderator
2/22/2014 | 12:54:05 AM
Re: Bought for a mobile use purpose?
Baker was referring to information NPD released Dec. 23 that said Chromebooks accounted for 21% of all U.S. notebook sales through the commercial retail channel for the first 11 months of 2013.

In his email, Baker defined the commercial channel as the distributors -- like CDW and Ingram Micro -- that many businesses, government agencies, schools and other organizations use to buy personal computers and other devices. His data did not include consumer sales, nor PCs sold by OEMs, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard, directly to businesses.

from "crappy reporting on chromebooks" computerword

in other words you fell for a bogus statistic !

User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 11:37:09 AM
Chrome OS sounds better than it is
The idea and price points of Chromebooks and Chrome OS sound great to many people, but when using the devices reality sets in. It is a myth that most users only do web browsing, email, and some light office work. And Chromebook means giving all your data to Google for them to do whatever they want with it. THAT is the biggest deterrent to using a Chromebook.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 11:40:07 AM
It's about the applications
I personally think that the biggest hinderance to mass adoption of Chromebooks is that if you look at the types of applications that people tend to use on laptops, its applications that are used for content creation....Microsoft Office, Adobe products etc.  Until these are more natively supported, people might view Chromebooks as fancy tablets for surfing the internet.

That being said, I do love the idea of leveraging Chromebook as a hybrid in that it can support Android applications and also support traditional desktop applications.  Once this is mroe intuitive and people are comfortable about how this fits, especially students who love the pricepoint, we should see an uptick in adoption.

Right now it's still a novelty or an anomaly, so many folks might not be comfortable buying in until they really understand the user experience, which will only come from getting the device into people's hands and letting them experience it.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 4:50:38 PM
Clarification, please
>> Online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely
>> registers with those measuring Web traffic.

Does that mean that people aren't using their Chromebooks at all, or that they are not using them in the way that Google had hoped, that is, logging into Googledocs?

I was considering buying a Chromebook as a backup computer about a month ago, and even if I had, I was only planning on using it on a semi-emergency basis anyway. If it would have served satisfactorily on that basis, and I'm sure it would have, it would still have been a "success", even though little used.

There are a torrent of laptops available on the market now that are too weak to be able to support Windows 7 that serve just fine with Ubuntu (Linux), and I bought one of those for that purpose. BTW, it is possible to install Ubuntu on a Chromebook, so many types of useful work can be done even without an internet connection.

The thing I like most about the Chromebook is that most versions use SSD's rather than HDD's, which means there is one less fragile laptop thing to worry about.




User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 7:01:17 PM
Not registering?
I thought the chromebook was basically google in a laptop form. How can one use a chromebook and not go online? I thought that was the biggest use for it.
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