Google’s cloud-based Chromebooks continue carving a niche for themselves — predominantly in the education sector, as a less expensive alternative for this group of users than the iPad, but also making inroads in the U.S. consumer market.
Analyst Gartner has just put out a new forecast for the Google OS laptops which predicts that worldwide sales of Chromebooks will grow 27 per cent year on year — with 7.3 million forecast to be purchased in 2015.
Last August, the analyst suggested Chromebooks would remain a niche market for the next five years, although its forecast then — of 5.2 million sold in 2014 — proved to be an underestimate. Its latest report notes 5.7 million of the devices being purchased last year.
For some wider PC market context, Gartner reported that worldwide PC shipments numbered almost 72 million units in the first quarter of this year (although Chromebooks aren’t included in Gartner’s PC figures).
Education remains the primary buyer of Chromebooks, accounting for 72 per cent of total sales last year according to Gartner’s latest data. It notes the majority of Chromebooks sales across all regions as being in the schools sector, with EMEA seeing the largest proportion of regional sales going to the education sector.
Last year Google quietly expanded its Google Play for Education app and brought its e-book store from Android tablets to Chromebooks, so it’s been working to burnish the education credentials of the device.
Gartner says Google is also seeing some success with Chromebooks in the U.S. consumer market — taking more than a third of regional sales there — although the analyst notes it continues struggling with brand awareness with non-U.S. consumers.
On the business front, Chromebook adoption remains low — and this despite Google increasingly targeting the segment with its Chromebook for Work suite of office applications and usability improvements such as making more applications and services available offline.
Gartner believes Google’s focus here will pay off in time — and that Chromebooks will become a “valid device choice” for enterprises wanting a low cost, easy to manage option.
Google has also shown itself willing to play the long game with Chromebooks, which came to market all the way back in 2011. And school users will of course graduate to being employees over time — so it’s likely hoping early Chromebook exposure in education grows up to power greater growth in enterprise adoption.
From a regional perspective, a large majority (84 per cent) of 2014 Chromebook sales were sold in North America. The EMEA region is the next largest market for Google’s laptops, representing 11 per cent of total sales in 2014. While Asia/Pacific accounted for less than 3 per cent of the Chromebook market, with demand there coming from Australia, New Zealand and Japan.