The new year could bring a new lineup in the race for portable computing, at least in the business-to-business (B2B) world. A report from industry research firm NPD Group, released in late December, shows that Google Chromebooks now represent more than 20 percent of all B2B notebook sales in the U.S. through commercial distributors.
As a percentage of all computer and tablet sales through these B2B channels, Chromebooks are now at 9.6 percent from January to November of last year, a huge increase from its 0.2 percent position in 2012. NPD said this was the largest increase of any product segment in its report.
The 9.6 percent position puts Chromebooks ahead of Apple notebooks for these channels in this period. Apple notebooks dropped to 1.8 percent from 2.6 percent over the same period, while Windows notebooks fell to 34.1 percent from 42.9 percent. Apple’s iPads also saw a slight decline to 15.8 percent from 17.1 percent. Android tablets more than doubled to 8.7 percent from 4.2 percent and Windows tablets hit 2.2 percent, compared to 0.8 percent in 2012.
The report, The NPD Group’s Distributor Track and Commercial Reseller Tracking Service, focused on sales through B2B distributors in the U.S. Chromebooks’ rise in the business-to-business market highlighted in this report does not represent its position in the total computer market, but it does show that Google’s thin client platform is gaining strength among busineses.
Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for NPD, said in a statement that “new products like Chromebooks, and reimagined items like Windows tablets, are now supplementing the revitalization that iPads started in personal computing devices.” He added that “it is no accident that we are seeing the fruits of this change in the commercial markets as business and institutional buyers exploit the flexibility inherent in the new range of choices now open to them.”
The NPD report is among the data points indicating that Chromebooks are gaining strength, at least in some sectors. In the larger market, there are additional signs. For instance, Amazon has noted that three of its top four bestselling laptops over the holiday season were Chromebooks -- Acer’s C720, Samsung’s Chromebook and HP’s Chromebook.
The ‘Scroogled’ Campaign
This is all the more impressive considering Microsoft’s attacks on the browser-based Chrome platform in its “Scroogled” marketing campaign. That marketing effort described the devices as, essentially, not being full-powered devices capable of running such mainstays as Office, iTunes or Photoshop. In one TV commercial in the campaign, the stars of the TV series Pawn Shop refuse to buy a used Chromebook because of its lack of utility if there’s no reliable Internet connection.
Increasingly, industry observers are suggesting that Microsoft’s hit on Chromebooks is not simply an add-on to its general campaign comparing Google’s search engine and Bing. Instead, it appears that the cloud-based Chromebooks, which are gaining popularity among IT departments in institutions and enterprises because of their low maintenance costs, appear to be on the verge of becoming a major threat to Microsoft’s traditional dominance among businesses.