First real-world usage figures suggest Chromebooks are struggling

First real-world usage figures suggest Chromebooks are struggling

Summary: When the initial batch of Chromebooks hit the market nearly two years ago, some thought these low-cost devices running Google's cloud-centric Chrome OS could be a Windows killer. NetMarketShare just started measuring Chromebook usage this month, and the first reported numbers are startlingly low.

TOPICS: PCs, Google

Uh-oh. It looks like Google’s Chromebook has fallen victim to the same malaise that’s affected Windows PCs and Macs. These low-cost devices were supposed to be perfect for an always-on, post-PC world. But just-released usage statistics suggest that the category has so far been unsuccessful.

In its first week of monitoring worldwide usage of Google's Chrome OS, NetMarketShare reported that the percentage of web traffic from Chromebooks was roughly 2/100 of 1 percent, a figure too small to earn a place on its reports.


The first Chromebooks went on sale in June 2011, nearly two years ago. In the run-up to the launch, ZDNet’s own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols called the Chromebook a “Windows killer,” predicting that “Microsoft is facing real trouble” in the market for desktop PCs.

Those first Chromebooks didn’t make an immediate dent in the market, with Acer reportedly selling fewer than 5000 units in the first six months and Samsung selling even fewer. But the new OS and its ultra-low-cost hardware have attracted their fair share of coverage from enthusiasts who like Google’s all-cloud-all-the-time vision of computing.

The two biggest names in the list of PC OEMs, Lenovo and HP, have jumped into the market as well, adding low-cost Chromebooks to their lineup. Last fall Samsung introduced a $249 ARM-powered Chromebook in a form factor reminiscent of the MacBook Air. And Google raised a few eyebrows when it introduced its own model, the spectacularly pricey Chromebook Pixel, with a high-resolution touchscreen.

With all those choices, you’d think the category would be successful. Indeed, that Samsung model topped Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops this winter.

But so far, Chromebooks haven’t appeared at all on the list of operating systems monitored by Net Applications, which publishes its figures at And that’s an important metric, according to my opponent in last week's ZDNet Great Debate on the future of Windows 8, who cited disappointing usage reports as evidence that Windows 8 has flopped:

Windows 8's market numbers are even lower than Vista's pathetic ranking at a similar point in their sales cycle. Even if you buy the most optimistic reading of NetMarketShare's numbers, Windows 8, after being in the market for six months, has just 3.31 percent of the desktop marketplace—that's just over what Vista had with 3.02 percent in three months.

Well, it was only five months, not six, and NetMarketShare also changed the way it calculated usage in 2008, rendering those comparisons invalid. But let's not quibble over details. When I looked at the same numbers last month, I found a slightly different story. I also noticed a curious omission:

One widely discussed operating system isn’t visible in the NetMarketShare numbers. There’s no entry for Chrome OS at all. A spokesperson for the company tells me those numbers will be included in an update to their tracking stats, coming soon.

The first numbers were due to show up in the subscriber-only reports for the week ending April 14. This morning I asked a company spokesperson for a sneak peek and got this report:

For the week of 4/8 - 4/14, ChromeBook has 0.023 percent weighted worldwide usage. Because it rounds to less than 0.1 percent it’s not showing up in our reports.

To put things in perspective, as of April 2013 all Chromebooks combined have managed to achieve 7/10 of 1 percent of the usage of Windows 8 PCs worldwide.

Put another way, that figure suggests that in nearly two years on the market, all of those Chromebooks have achieved a smaller percentage of usage than Windows RT earned as of January 2013, after only three months on the market. Windows RT has been widely considered a disappointment, with OEMs cutting prices for RT-powered devices.

In both categories, those tiny results suggest a fair amount of pain for the OEMs that jumped in early. Google’s gone all-in for its cloud-based OS, and Microsoft is similarly gung-ho about the future of its Windows RT operating system. But it might be another couple of years before the general buying public is really ready for either one.

Topics: PCs, Google

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  • Are you sure?

    Did you consult with SJVN before you publish this? ;-). You have to get permission to write about Chromebooks from SJVN and his croonies. Not only that you should also get written approval from this forum's one and only IT Professional with lots of certifications, lots of experience and company paid 3 vacations with air tickets, (you know whom I mean), would come back and say you are writing this to sell your books.
    Ram U
    • Ed is gonna cost ZD lots Google sponsorship

      LOL. Someone shuts Ed's mouth please. MountainView ain't happy now.
      • +1

        Ram U
      • Ya! I guess! Ha!

        While I appreciate Ed's swipe at SJVN and his absolutely ludicrous writings, its hardly necessary or probably even worthwhile.

        I say that only because as wacky as some of his articles have been in years past, the articles he has written in recent months, in particular articles berating Windows 8 are often so far off the mark of reality and so intentionally inflammatory and so downright bizarre at times, if not just plainly misleading and even stupidly so on some points, that not a soul alive with an honest brain can take his articles seriously and certainly those who do, are so brainwashed that they will just make excuses and disbelieve anything negative about his garbage no matter what the real hard evidence shows.

        On the other hand…I am just a little thrilled that Ed did write this article because now we are bound to get more of SJVN’s obtuse and reality bending “bits of wisdom from the outhouse basement of IT writing”. If nothing else (and probably nothing else) at least SJVN is rapidly learning tricks of writing that are turning him into an almost masterful writer who can elicit howls of laughter from a reader that may also very well at the same time want to make the reader throw up when they consider this guy got a job writing for a major IT website. Now that’s a skill I think that would likely be unique to the world of writing of any kind, its not easy to make a reader laugh and want to barf at the same time, but SJVN’s nonsense kind evokes that odd combination in a reader who understands you simply cannot rationally take him seriously.

        Its strange in some ways, I admit, but it will be absolutely stark raving hilarious how SJVN is going to explain how after 2 years on the market Chromebooks have failed to accomplish what Surface RT did in a few short months. It will be maddeningly sweet in some respects to read through his oh so aggravating ludicrous takes on reality that couldn’t possibly exist the way he will claim it does, to explain how the Windows OS he has said was “Dead on arrival”, or “Windows has come to a dead end” or “Windows, its over.” Or any number of obviously nutbar comments that makes it plain he feels Windows is about to cease to exist altogether, has outsold the OS he has said was the one that was going to give Windows nightmares, and I guess his implications are that Chromebooks would be leading the apocalyptic horsemen that will be assisting in the obliteration and burial of Windows.

        And any fool, ANY fool could see as simple as any thing that’s ever been seen, if your going to use lackluster sales as a measure of “inevitable death” of a product because that’s a clear sign it’s a lousy product and the public will never warm up to it, then Chromebooks would not only be dead on arrival, the box you by a Chromebook in should have been shaped like a coffin and opening up a Chromebook carton should smell like a dead corpse. That’s how much significantly WORSE Chromebooks are doing than Windows.

        SJVN will of course never accept this, even though it comes out of a stew pot that he concocted from a recipe that he said was the right recipe. There is nothing, not a single solitary possible explanation or spin that even comes reasonably close in any common sense respect that has any basis at all in reality that has a hope of saving SJVN from this mess he created than DUMPED, the whole stinking mess, just dumped it on himself and shouted like hell to get attention,” look at me! Look at me! Hear what Im saying!?!?!?”

        There is NO justification for saying that Chromebooks are anything less than possibly the worse colossal IT flops imaginable in the history of IT if what SJVN has said about Windows 8 comes even anyplace close to being correct. Nothing can be said that has any basis in reality about that.

        But, alas, I can imagine SJVN will try, and again, intelligent thinking humans whos minds are not warped and bent with hatred towards Windows and Microsoft and who dare to read his response to these numbers will again find themselves in that bizarre world where the writings of SJVN will make them want laugh with hilarity while turning their stomachs inside out at the same time.
    • Here's the real problem

      Since they launched, the number of Chromebooks sold has actually topped 4 Million. That might not be great for more than 2 years but, it is a 700% increase from the launch sales.

      The number 1 place they're doing we'll is in schools and that's actually an awesome fit for them. Any student could use them to meet close to 100% of their needs.

      Don't worry though, there will still be a need for high end desktops.
      • US and UK only

        It's only very recent that Google made the cheap Samsung ARM Chromebooks available outside of the US and the UK.
        Something to keep in mind when 'interprating' these numbers. Even now the Chromebook ARM isn't available in all that many countries.
        • LOL!

          Keep spinning. Nobody is buying these useless things, and many who do return them. It's funny how Google made Chrome OS look exactly like the Windows desktop.
          • It's not spin, eh?

            Windows is a monopoly and is designed to ship on everything and MS needs it to.

            Chromium is a niche/early adopter product by design. It's great if you want zero maintenance and perfect security, but that's going to be a small audience and I think Google knows that. They already have Android, they already have the best web services, and no matter how small the audience, they have the best cloud OS in Chromium.

            Windows 8 has real problems based on Microsoft's ambition for the tablet market. Yes, it would be considered very successful ... if another company released it. But this is MS's bread-and-butter. Google can afford a PC 'hobby'. MS has to pay the bills.

            And SJVN is terrible, but so is Ed Bott and they both keep the lights on for more serious journalism. Bott is such a better name, though.
          • 80 - 100 million Windows 8 license so far

            Windows 8 has sold around 80 to 100 million windows 8 licenses so far.
          • That's not true...

            The main point for local sales is Best Buy and they seem to always sell out of them so, somebody is buying them.
          • Mehhh.

            They're always selling out because they only order two at a time!
          • Best buy runs out because they don't carry very many.

            All that means is that they din't expect anyone to buy them so they didn't stock very many and / or they are in no rush to restock possibly because it took too long to sell the last ones and this is an amazing run on sentence.
          • Stock levels are like 2-4 units.

            They let them sell out then dont reorder until someone comes in and orders one because they are out of stock, then they order like 4 of them or something to give them a little on hand stock. Its how it works.

            Dont be so naive. Nobody is touching these Chromebook thingies.

            Its ridiculous and it really needs to stop. SJVN is a menace. He is warping minds around here. PC sales of all kinds are slow, you thing scrapings out of the bottom of the barrel like a Chromebook are going to be coming anywhere close to even a tiny percentage of PC sales? I suppose if you believe SVJN’s crap and you are not troubled by having your brain washed you might but it dosnt make it real, or even plausible in a fantasy world.
          • windows desktop

            When there was no desktop you complained.
            When there IS a familiar desktop you complain.

      • There might have been 4 million made...

        But at best, 500,000 sold. On StatCounter, Chrome OS has 0.05% of he US browser web share usage. Since Dec 2010, an OS that is little more than a web browser has achieved 0.05% (and falling) web share. World wide, it is only 0.02%.

        Chrome books are not selling. They are not being used.
        • Not true

          ACER alone made 4 Million of them... Logistics have showed 4 Million have been sold (4.1 actually) and mostly in schools... That's a little more than a Million per year.

          Crud, Australia had sales of 768k the first day...

          This whole thing is speculation without any real evidence but, it doesn't matter.

          Let me put it to you in a way you can understand...

          If these devices are doing so bad, why hasn't Samsung gone all Windows 8/RT on them? The truth is, they're not doing bad and no amount of ill will from the resident MS blogger is going to change that.
          • 100% true

            Sorry slick, ChromeOS is a failure from a market standpoint. You are simply delusional if you think a country with 0.00% web share usage of ChromeOS has 700k unit sales....

            You are either creating lies or repeating them.
          • Oh yes. "real evidence"


            You are simply lying.
          • Oh stop it. Please

            Your embarrassing yourself.

            Is this what its come to??? You don’t like the facts as proved so it’s the ill will of the blogger that’s the point? Ya, lets shoot the messenger! Ever heard that one? Who cares if they made 10 billion of them and they sold??? If the question is, are they getting used, the answer is NO.

            If the question is, did some companies make a little money off Chromebooks, the answer is YES, a little money. But people get them home and go “WTF??” This isn’t what I have on my computer??

            Ya. While SJVN is carping and complaining away about how people are buying Windows RT and making a mistake because its not real Windows, HA! Well as usual he dosnt tell the real story does he? The real story is that most people buy Chromebooks thinking what they are getting is some kind of Windows light or something much like Windows and feel like complete morons when they realize what they did buy.

            So ya, there have been some Chromebooks sold, but even the people who bought them don’t want them. We can say a lot better for the 80 some odd million who are now using Windows 8 quite happily.
          • I have a chrome book

            I have a chrome book and went from hater to fan boy. I have about 10 friends who have bought one after playing with mine.

            All of its negatives ended up being the biggest positives for me.

            1. Zero Configuration
            2. No Storage... equals no liability, lost or stolen buy another one put in user name and password and back come settings.
            3. No installed software to upgrade.
            4. Backend Tech support from Google completely outsourced IT department to boot
            5.Cloud Storage.
            6. Long Battery life. I have the 249 dollar samsung.

            I am smitten.