Last year, I disputed ridiculous assertions, based on widely misquoted NPD data, that 2014 would be "year of the Chromebook". It wasn't. But that designation does belong to 2015—at least in the United States. Measures: Number of new models; adoption by K-12 schools; and overall sales, which are surprisingly strong. Read carefully the next paragraph.
Through U.S. commercial channels and retail, Chromebooks accounted for 14 percent of laptop sales last year, according to NPD, which released data at my request. That's up from 8 percent in 2013. Commercial channels, largely to educational institutions, accounted for about two-thirds of 2014 Chromebook sold. Year over year, sales soared by 85 percent, and the trajectory continues to climb.
Education is a very important market for computer manufacturers and other technology companies. Just yesterday, Microsoft announced a huge deal with the New York City Public Schools, to offer Office 365 to all of its students and teachers for free.
Today, Dell is presenting new hardware to the education segment; new laptops and tablets running Chrome OS, Android and Windows. By offering a diverse range of form factors and platforms, the manufacturer can gain access to many school systems and classrooms.
Chromebooks are wonderful computers, albeit a bit limited. Sure, some people can get by using them as a full-time machine, but if you need specialized software, a true desktop operating system may be required. With that said, many users live in the browser nowadays, so it makes total sense for them.
Where Chromebooks really shine, however, is in education. You see, Chrome OS is a very secure platform that keeps students safe from malware. Best of all, they are easy to maintain by IT. Today, Acer announces two new Chromebooks designed for education -- the 15.6 inch C910 and 11.6 inch C740.
Yesterday afternoon, a San Diego State University student bought my MacBook Pro—13-inch Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD—for $1,100. I purchased the laptop from local dealer DC Computers in late-August 2014 for a few hundred dollars more. The buyer's interest was my own: Mac, large SSD, and extended warranty (expires April 2017).
The proceeds go to buying Toshiba Chromebook 2 (two, another for my wife) and Android phone for her. She moves from iPad Air, which has been, since September 2014, her PC—and that experience should be another story (be patient). If time travel was possible, I would keep, rather than sell, my Chromebook Pixel early last summer. The Chromie lifestyle suits me best, and I am excited to be back to it. However, in December, when reviewing the tech products that changed my digital lifestyle last year, including the switch to Apple's platforms: "I can’t imagine using anything else". I lied to myself, and unintentionally to you.
Chromebooks are limited machines, but they have their place. Quite frankly, I use one almost daily for writing in my car. They are lightweight, and for the most part, inexpensive, so I do not worry too much if it gets dinged up or lost. My biggest complaint about these computers, however, is that many manufacturers seem to think Chromebooks are only about being low cost, and that is simply not the case. You see, some people like laptops with Chrome OS not for their price, but for their simplicity and ease of use. Those people may want a mid-range Chromebook and not some chintzy turd.
Acer has been a big proponent of the Chromebook movement and their offerings have been a good mix of quality and value. Today, the manufacturer announces the worlds-first 15.6 inch Chromebook. While that is exciting on its own, there is even more news -- it can have an optional Broadwell processor!
As a fat guy, I love doughnuts; it's like its in my DNA. If the detectives on Law and Order took a sample of my blood, and looked under a microscope, they would see sprinkles and frosting swimming around with the platelets and stuff. If they were hunting for a robbery suspect called the Doughnut Bandit, I'd likely be guilty. They could probably follow the trail of powdered sugar from the crime scene to my house.
Truth be told, I do not discriminate either; all doughnut brands are welcome -- Entenmann's, Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme to name a few. Today however, one of those companies, Krispy Kreme, turns to Google for its newest tech need. You see, the doughnut pusher is now using Chromebooks in its stores. The usage is odd though, as the company wants its customers to talk to strangers over Hangouts.
Black Friday is now out of the way, and while there have already been a number of technology deals available, things now get serious as we approach Cyber Monday. As has become the norm, retailers are no longer waiting for the day itself to roll around before trying to lure customers in. Amazon is no different as its Cyber Monday deals start today.
There are, of course, a few headline grabbing offers to be had, but the online giant is looking to maintain shoppers' interest by offering new deals every ten minutes. Don’t see anything that takes your fancy right now? Just stick around, because you never know what may show up in the next batch of deals.
While I keep the list short this year, it wouldn't be U.S. Thanksgiving without my writing about gratitude, and why some tech company's executives, employees, and partners should prostrate and pray "Thanks".
Let's start off with Google, which continues a great run that started with Larry Page's return as CEO in April 2011. If he's not all smiles this Turkey Day, someone should slap that man aside the head. I could tick off a hundred things for which he should give thanks. For brevity's sake, so you can get back to the big game and bigger bird, I select some things that might not come to mind.
Santa Claus is a great man; he delivers gifts to all of us as a reward for being good. While people have tried to trick me into thinking he isn't real, I refuse to fall for it. Of course he is real! Who else is putting presents under my tree? My mom? I think I would have caught her by now.
As great as Santa Claus is, apparently, Google is looking to get into the gifting game too. You see, the search-giant is giving away 1TB of Google Drive storage for two years. Hell, for many, that is better than a crappy wooden train from Santa Claus! To score the free storage, you only need to buy a new Chromebook.
Cough. Choke. Collapse. That's me nearly needing the Heimlich maneuver during breakfast while looking over Samsung Black Friday deals. You can preorder them. Seriously. What the frak is that?
The routine started all so innocently. Samsung sent a promo email, and I curiously clicked the picture of a Chromebook and "Reserve Computing Deals". The webpage screenshot says all you need to know. You can, today -- as in right this very minute -- preorder either Samsung Chromebook 2 for assured savings ($20 or $50) between November 27 and December 1 for one and until the 27th for the other. I understand that Black Friday is late-month this year, but, c`mon, beat me with a sack of cash, sales preorders?
Chromebooks continue to shine in terms of growth according to the latest figures from ABI Research, with the notebooks up 67 percent quarter-on-quarter in terms of shipment levels.
And indeed ABI forecasts that Google's cloudy laptops will double in quantity when it comes to year-on-year.
Everybody has different needs, so it is impossible to say one operating system is better than another. Sure, you can state which OS is best for you, but someone else may have a difference in opinion. In other words, whether you think Windows, OS X, Chrome OS or any Linux distro is the best operating system, you are right.
While I prefer Windows for heavy lifting, I use my Chromebook regularly for light use, such as writing, and trips to Starbucks. Unfortunately, Chrome OS has become synonymous with low-cost and portability, causing people to discount it for home desktop use. Actually, there is a segment of Chrome devices called Chromeboxes that are designed for the desktop and can excel at many things. Today, I am looking at the Acer Chromebox CXI (4GKM) to see how it performs as a home desktop PC.
Google is trying to grow its budding operating system platform, continually updating and enhancing features. Customers can now work in certain environments offline, for instance. But what lacked was some of the core features of rivals Windows and OS X. However, that slowly changes as well.
Photo editing, for instance, was one feature that, while not absent, certainly wasn't top of the line. Until now you had to rely on an app such as Pixlr, which many Chromebook customers use. But Google today announces that Photoshop is arriving, though not (at least yet) offline.
No one likes to be in the middle seat on airplanes, right? It's a metaphor appropriate for retail -- and the place where Windows sits in NPD's final assessment of U.S. 2014 back-to-school sales growth. Chromebook continued a nearly two-year unit-sales surge, while Macs made last-minute gains, and Windows PCs survived only by aggressive tactics that pulled down average selling prices. For Microsoft and its partners, the strategy cut market share losses but at great hidden costs.
Back-to-school 2013 was a bloodbath, with unit sales through U.S. channels dropping by 2.5 percent annually -- a loss that pulled down overall PC sales during first half of last year. For 2014, sales are up about 3 percent overall, or 3.5 percent for notebooks and flat for desktops.
Google geeks have speculated for nearly a year about Android and Chrome OS coming together as one operating system. Yesterday's announcement -- that some Android apps can now run on the browser-based platform -- seems to foreshadow a combined future. Make no mistake about what this really means. Chrome OS is an ecosystem with no future because there is little monetization of apps. The platform would be dead if not for the existing and smoothly integrated Google cloud ecosystem.
Android apps inject life into the Chrome OS ecosystem. Free apps can't sustain any platform because developers have no incentive to create them. Android opens a huge spigot of apps -- and some which developers can monetize, more than they do through paid services tacked onto free web apps. BTW, Microsoft should take a cue from Google, by bringing boatloads of Windows Phone apps to its PC operating system.