Will the enterprise help triple Chromebook sales by 2017?

Will the enterprise help triple Chromebook sales by 2017?

Summary: Sales of Google's Chromebooks to businesses could hit eight million a year by 2018, according to Gartner.

TOPICS: Hardware, Google, Laptops

Sales of low-cost Chromebooks are expected to crack the five million mark this year, and could triple to 14.4 million units by 2017, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Bucking the broader trend in the PC market, which is showing small signs of recovery after two years of decline, sales of Chromebooks are on the rise. With sales of 5.2 million forecast this year, the Chrome OS-powered laptops should beat last year's sales by 79 percent, according to Gartner.

In 2013, 2.9 million Chromebooks were sold across the world, dominated by Chromebook first-movers Samsung and Acer, with 64.9 percent and 21.4 percent of sales respectively. The pair were followed by HP and Lenovo, neck and neck with 6.8 percent and 6.7 percent each.

Despite the impressive growth, Chromebooks are still a niche product and highly dependent on a single sector: education. According to Gartner, in 2013 the education sector accounted for nearly 85 percent of Chromebook sales. Demand for the devices is also very localised: last year, 82 percent of all sales came from North America.

With schools being nearly the only significant segment for the Chrome OS powered netbooks, where will Gartner's forecasted threefold increase in sales come from?

According to Gartner, it will be "continuing demand in the education sector"; "increased adoption of cloud computing by businesses and consumers"; and "retail purchases by consumers wanting a simple device for daily computing". 

A growing part of the Chromebook market, according to Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner, will be business users, such as workers in banking, financial services, estate agents, and hotel receptionists.

"So far, businesses have looked at Chromebooks, but not bought many. By adopting Chromebooks and cloud computing, businesses can benefit; they can shift their focus from managing devices to managing something much more important — their data," said Durand. The company expects HP to lead the charge for business Chromebooks, due to its large installed base in the enterprise market.

Share of Chromebook sales by consumers and business
Share of Chromebook sales by consumers and business. Image: Gartner

Google has been throwing more at making Chromebooks appealing to the enterprise, hoping to capture interest from businesses still running the now unsupported Windows XP.

Earlier this year it partnered with VMWare to deliver virtualised Windows to Chrome OS devices and with Asus to make a $179 Chromebox desktop. It's also launched the Google+ Hangouts hardware Chromebox for videoconferencing in business.

Despite these efforts, there is still a mismatch between Chromebooks and most enterprises on the collaboration front. As ZDNet has previously pointed out, Chromebooks lack support for Microsoft’s Skype and of greater importance in businesses, Lync.

According to Gartner, Google and its Chromebook hardware partners have much to do if they want the market to break out of its niche status over the next five years.

"Making a competitive Chromebook is not just a matter of hardware and price; what is most important is to show how the device's cloud-based architecture provides genuine advantages to users," said Durand.

Features from hardware makers that would address this include faster connectivity, faster memory access, faster and larger solid-state drives, and strong user support in the education, business and consumer segments, according to Gartner.

Read more on Chromebooks

Topics: Hardware, Google, Laptops

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • No. Chromebooks will be dead by 2017.

    A device with not a single reason to even exist.
    • @Owl:Net again, simply wrong

      Maybe your repetitive useless, negativity can be put to some use. Hopefully you are at least being paid for these comments and putting that money back into the economy. If not, maybe you could get a regenerative keyboard that charges your phone from the wasted typing energy. Something...
    • We can only hope that Owl:Net will be dead by 2017

      Owl:Net: A troll with not a single reason to even exist.
      • Fowlnet != troll.

        A troll just wants to hurt or gain a reaction. Fowlnet is a microsoft shill.. All he wants is to preach anything Microsoft.

        Surface RT has all the same limits as Chromebooks, but I've yet to hear Fowlnet say anything bad about it.
    • Fowlnet the Microsoft Shill.

      Has no interest in Chrome or Android because they are not microsoft, but feels the need to comment on every story about either because he needs to get the microsoft shilling done somehow and preaching to the converted serves no purpose.

      In a way I hope Chromebooks don't make it far into the enterprise... only because you don't need anywhere near the IT staff to administer Chromebooks that you do windows networks. Since IT is what I do, I like Windows networks because they keep us busy and employed.
    • Such lovely trolls on ZDNet

      Please don't feed them
      Claude J Greengrass
  • Chromebooks not for enterprises

    I do not think enterprises will go for Chromebooks. The core idea of having your data in the cloud is a security risk enterprises want to avoid. In fact, some enterprises have banned the use of Dropbox and the like.
    • who says the data would be in the cloud?

      Chromebooks would be viable for companies that do everything off their intranet site. I know not a few restaurant chains that work this way.
      • Ya

        Because they probably don't need much for their Chromebook usage. as well, the theft of a $200 Chromebook isn't like the theft of a $600 iPad.
    • two points Rub2013

      You can setup Chromebooks with your own private cloud.

      also, lots of universities are moving to the cloud now. Our university just did, and I know others are looking at it too. If Schools and research institutes do it, the next generations of IT staff will be very familiar and so it rolls out. Microsoft know this which is why they fight tooth and nail for every education deal.
  • 2018

    So by 2018 chromebooks might be at a point of having half the sales windows phone does now... Yep chromebook has a bright future ahead of it...
  • it might make sense

    for companies that use google docs and services
  • Chromebooks are the better in every ascpect

    I was critical when I bought my first chrome book (an acer c720p) but this device had everything, I ever wanted from a notebook. It's amazing fast (boot, wakeup), has a very simple and clean user interface. The user experience can be compared to a Macbook Air and it is much better than anything, i exprienced with a Windows Notebook. And the battery life is awesome.

    Of course Microsoft will not offer skype or lynch for chromebooks but this will not help them. The overwelming positve user experience (just read the amazon reviews) will increase the marketshare of these devices.

    All i can say if you don't need naitve Windows or Mac Applications (skype, itunes, photoshop) then go and give it a try.

    The Problem of Microsoft is Wndows itself. A fat, slow, old style OS wich well never ever offer a user experience like Chrome OS at least as long as they don’t make a complete cut. Something they can’t do because they have provide backward compatibility.
    • it's called RT

      battery last for days, faster boot than chrome and touch
      • @everss02 - You don't understand why chromebooks

        are doing relatively well (at a time of PC decline) and RT is a flop. Don't worry - i was disappointed when chromeOS was revealed too, when I heard google was working on a linux based OS.
        Over the last couple years, reading about them, I started to understand the ideas behind it. Its subtle but important. Then last year I sold the iPad (couldn't play movies off removable storage) and got an acer c720. While you won't be immediately wowed by it, like you might with an iPad, you do slowly understand why they are gaining traction and are here to stay. I do not mean to sound like a marketing department at google.
        • Price is the single reason Chromebooks sell

          In any market where Chromebooks are priced similar to other devices, they are next to non-existent.

          Chromebooks are already declining on Amazon as competing devices offer similar pricing.

          It is like watching netbooks all over again.
          • Emacho: Wrong! They're not selling! The article itself says so...

            and the only places they're "selling" is in school systems. But, I suspect that, they're "selling" in schools because, they're either being subsidized by Google, or getting huge discounts, all for the purposes of claiming that Chromebooks are "gaining" marketshare and having bigger growth than Windows, both of which are lies.
    • better at what?

      Chromebooks are a web client - they are good at being that, but have no function whatsoever in other areas of computing.

      So "better at everything" certainly doesn't follow.
      • not true.

        ChromeOS can actually run native type code at near native speed. Google "native client" It can run full 3D accelerated games, so basically Google can use it to allow pretty much any type of app to run on a chromebook. (and in a sandbox) Together with what I heard about android apps being made available soon, (probably also in the sandbox) I can't see any reason for us to keep having the whole "it's only a browser" discussions.

        Technically anyone that develops apps in HTML5 is also "In a browser" So HTML/CSS/Js metro and RT apps are... you guest it... "browser apps" don't believe me? cripple IE's DLL's and stuff and see if your metro apps still work.
  • I'm still waiting for Cisco AnyConnect VPN support

    Until that's available, Chromebook is a non-starter, and I will continue using a Windows laptop.