Chrome OS gains on Windows 8's pains

After only a few months Acer's Chromebook already accounts for 5 to 10 percent of Acer's US shipments and HP will soon be launching its own Chromebook. In the meantime, Windows 8 PC sales remain anemic.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The blame game for Windows 8's initial disappointment has already started. Microsoft blames OEMs. OEMs blame Microsoft. The bottom line is that Windows 8 has sunk below Vista's market share during the same initial period. The surprising winner in all this? Google's Linux-based Chrome OS.

Acer's Linux-powered Chromebook has gone from zero to five to ten percent of the company's US shipments in a few months. (Credit: Acer)

I thought Chrome OS had a shot at the big-time. I didn't expect it a major PC OEM, Acer, to introduce a Chromebook in late 2012 and a few months later have it account for 5 to 10% of its US shipments. At the same time, as Acer CEO Jim Wong said "Windows 8 itself is still not successful."

Wong, in a Bloomberg interview, added that he expects Chromebook sales at this level "to be sustainable in the long term and the company is considering offering Chrome models in other developed markets." Windows 8? "The whole market didn’t come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that’s a simple way to judge if it is successful or not.”

Wong credits Chrome OS gains to the fact "that it’s more secure,” He also added that early adopters have been "more professional, heavy Internet users with educational institutions, and corporations are also likely to show interest in the operating system." And, all this was done, he added, with much less marketing and promotion than Windows 8's sales campaigns.

Acer's not the only ones who noticed that Chromebooks are as popular as hot coffee on a cold winter morning. First, Lenovo, and now HP has jumped on the Chromebook bandwagon.

These vendors aren't selling Chromebooks because they love Linux. They're doing it, I believe, because consumer and business users presented with a choice between a radically different look in Windows 8 and a different, but familiar looking, Chrome Web browser interface will choose the friendly face of Chrome. It seems they're right. 

It also doesn't help Microsoft's cause any that Chromebooks are cheaper than Windows 8 systems. In particular, Windows 8 systems that show off its "Metro" interface require touch-screens and at at an average price of $867, they're much pricey.

Last, but far from least, Chrome OS has no licensing fee. It doesn't cost Acer one thin dime to place Chrome OS on its Chromebooks. In a dwindling PC market, pumping up the profit margin counts for a lot. Just ask Acer, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung.

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