Few business takers yet, but ​Chromebook sales grow to 7.3 million this year

Chromebook sales are on the rise but the enterprise is still cool on the Google-powered machines.

Sales of Google's Chromebooks are set to reach 7.3 million units in 2015, according to new figures, but the devices remain largely confined to the education sector and takeup remains low outside of the US.

The number of the low-cost Google-powered laptops sold this year is on track to grow 27 percent, up from 5.7 million units in 2014 to 7.3 million in 2015, research from analyst house Gartner shows.

The Chromebook's growth contrasts markedly with the shrinking global PC market. However, sales of the devices remain heavily skewed towards the US and within that market, they're largely used in schools, despite growing interest from consumers in the country.

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In 2014, the US accounted for 84 percent of all Chromebooks sold, with 60 percent of sales coming from education, 39 percent from consumers, and one percent from business.

Last year, noting signs of growing interest among businesses for Chromebooks, Gartner forecast that by 2017 sales to the education sector could rise to over six million units, driving total sales for the year to 14 million laptops sold.

Its outlook for the next two years is more conservative, with the analyst predicting shipments to rise to 7.9 million by 2016, suggesting growth of under 10 percent for next year.

Chromebook sales across the EMEA region remain small, accounting for 11 percent of all sales this year, while Latin America and APAC, including Japan, account for three percent each.

The reason for the lower sales outside of the US is that the devices are mismatched with infrastructure and consumer expectations in those markets, according to Gartner.

"The major factors that affect the adoption of Chromebooks by consumers remain the connectivity issue in emerging markets, but also the ability for users to understand and get used to cloud-based applications, and keep content in the cloud and ecosystem," Isabelle Durand, a principal analyst at Gartner, said.

Also, most Chromebook buyers are "tech-savvy" people who buy the machines as a secondary device, while others buy them as a cheap additional piece of kit for the family to use.

Still, Durand expects businesses will eventually adopt Chromebooks, but only once they see the machines offer true benefits such as easy management and security. For now, the Chromebook remains a device for SMBs or cash-strapped startups.

"Chromebooks will become a valid device choice for employees as enterprises seek to provide simple, secure, low-cost and easy-to-manage access to new web applications and legacy systems, unless a specific application forces a Windows decision," said Durand.

The current leader among Chromebook vendors is Acer, which sold more than two million units in 2014, followed by Samsung, which sold 1.7 million Chromebooks, and HP, which sold one million.

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