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Why the Chromebook is today’s laptop superstar

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Tuesday, 7 June 2016 - Last Updated on June 9, 2016
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chromebook-505728_640Sorry cool guys, there’s a new kid in town – and its called Google Chromebook. Latest tech reports reveal that it defeated Apple in sales this first quarter of 2016. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), Chromebook US shipments have crossed the 2-million mark compared to Apple’s MacBook, which only reached around 1.5 million.

This shift now makes Chromebook the number one product in the education market (a domain that used to be Apple’s). And it ranks as the second most popular OS next to Microsoft Windows. Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, was quite excited to share the news as he posted on his Twitter account, “Big news for Chromebooks: Android apps coming soon. And now #2 in the US!” Apple on the other hand, slides down to the third spot and is crushed yet again, as it already suffered a sales drop with the iPhone just recently.

The IDC further added that the reasons behind the rise in sales are the K-12 schools. More than half of all the devices used in schools now are Chromebooks. That’s “4.4 million out of the 8.9 million devices used in schools,” according to CNBC. “It is like 30,000 Chromebooks are activated everyday.” The surge in numbers has chipped away Apple’s domination in the education market, from 52% in 2012 to 24% by 2015. Microsoft also lost some sales going down from 43% to 24%.

Several factors attributed to Google’s success are:

  • The price became so affordable that schools with lesser budget could buy them.
  • More than 50 million students are using Google Apps for Education. Value for money and compatibility became two strong factors in having more Chromebooks in the classrooms.

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What is Chromebook anyway?

For starters, the Google Chromebook is basically a laptop that runs one application only: Google Chrome. The Linux-based machine runs Chrome OS and Google’s Internet browser. It does not have any other programs installed nor does it allow the installation of programs like the Windows or Mac OS platforms.

The concept wasn’t particularly interesting to consumers back in 2011. The first release, Chromebook Series 5, through Samsung and Acer, did not fare so well. In fact, it got poor reviews from tech websites and consumers. Laptopmag only gave it two-and-a-half stars saying that the device had, “poor audio quality; a rudimentary file manager; inability to multitask; and non-access to Google Docs or Reader offline.”

Chromebook had another reboot in 2013, and this time, HP, Lenovo, and Google released their own versions and did a little better. The $279 Chromebook 11 was launched as well as the sleek and savvy Chromebook Pixel to rival Apple’s MacBook.

HP’s Chromebook 11, which mimicked the look and feel of the iconic white MacBook, earned three stars from Laptopmag this time. Other reviews also gave more favorable feedback. CNet describes the HP Chromebook 11 as “a cleaner, more colorful budget Chromebook.”

The Chromebook Pixel on the other hand, got higher ratings from reviewers in terms of looks but ultimately failed to impress in terms of performance. WIRED called it a “beautiful excess” for its limited capabilities despite the impressive hardware.

Drawbacks

Users cited that the Achilles heel of Chromebooks was its dependency on the Internet. It had limited offline capabilities since most of its applications are web-based. Apps like Google Drive and its MS Office counterparts need Internet access in order for them to work. The 2013 Chromebook Pixel, despite being praised for its amazing finish and style, wasn’t as appealing to most users or found it hard to migrate to the Google platform since other programs could not be transferred there (like Adobe Photoshop for graphic artists.)

A Techbout article cited a list of disadvantages of owning a Chromebook. One of the first things it noted was the meager on-board file storage. At 32GB, users had to rely on external hard drives; the option to expand with an SD card of up to another 32 GB; or to make use of the 1TB Google Drive that comes with the Chromebook for free (for three years).

Its computing power was also not as powerful as Microsoft’s. The article emphasized that those who got used to MS Office programs will have a hard time shifting to the Google counterparts. It also edged out niche users like video editors, graphic artists, and even gamers due to its lack of integration with third-party applications. Chromebook users were basically locked-in with Google’s onboard apps.

Breaking ground in 2016

Despite the criticisms, the Chromebook was able to beat Apple and is now shaking up Microsoft as well. It actually found its rightful place in a market segment where computers are needed the most – schools. With the modernization and implementation of the US K-12 Common Core curriculum, school districts saw Chromebooks as more effective means of getting teachers and students connected.

An article from Fortune.com cited that the rise in Chromebooks came at the expense of having Apple iPads in school. The Apple tablets, which also required Bluetooth keyboards, were more expensive than having Chromebooks. One iPad could cost up to $1,000, which included an education software package of up to $200. This made Chromebook a more preferable option for Common Core testing given its low cost and access to Google Apps for Education, which was free.

With Google making waves in the education sector, Windows and Apple are left aghast with the recent IDC sales reports. Google’s CEO was nonetheless surprised as well. Could it be that Google will be the Microsoft of this generation?

It’s something to definitely watch out for, but for now, the limelight shines bright on Google’s laptop superstar.

Images:  Acer and Chromebook from Pixabay.com. Used under CC license. Some rights reserved.

Bernadine Racoma (144 Posts)


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