Latest IHS research shows Chromebooks surging as bigger laptops lag

The market research firm finds that buyers are flocking to smaller-screen notebooks -- to the detriment of 15-inch portables.

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It's been a good week for Chromebooks, the laptops running Google's Chrome that once looked like they were headed for tech dustbin. While one market research firm -- NPD -- was finding that Chromebook sales had higher market share than Windows laptops in the B2B market for the first time, another -- IHS -- was seeing big growth in the smaller-screen laptop market segment, which Chromebooks dominate.

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In particular, IHS saw big growth in the number of 11-inch laptop screen shipments -- from 8 million in the first half of 2014 to 11 million in the first half of this year -- with a 14-percent drop in display shipments for 15-inch notebook screens in the same time frame. There was a similar, if less significant, pattern with 12-inch screen shipments increasing and 14-inch display shipments dropping.

IHS Senior Analyst Jason Hsu says the data shows that Chromebooks have expanded beyond their traditional educational base into the consumer realm and becoming increasing popular in markets outside the U.S. Hsu also speculates that the impending launch of Windows 10 may have impeded the sales of traditional Windows laptops.

It appears that Microsoft and PC manufacturers have already seen the writing on the wall and will be offering Windows 10 laptops in Chromebook-like sizes and with their low price tags, such as Acer's new Cloudbooks. Ironically, Chromebooks have been moving upwards, with some models sporting more powerful processors and larger displays. Dell just announced its "premium" Chromebook 13, which packs a 1080p HD 13-inch screen, glass trackpad, and $399 price tag.

Also noteworthy: IHS has found that laptop makers like HP and Lenovo have curtailed display panel shipments due to flat PC sales like NPD details and to keep inventory in check. It's not exactly a good sign as the back-to-school shopping season is in full swing and the holiday shopping season will soon be upon us.

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