Chromebook gains, Microsoft worries

NPD reveals that Chromebook sales are exploding and Microsoft is starting to get worried.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Some people still pooh-pooh the idea that Chromebooks could ever come close to challenging Windows PCs. NPD's latest laptop sales numbers say otherwise. Chromebook sales are zooming upward, while Windows laptop sales are stagnant. 

Chromebook Pixel
Chromebooks continue to gain in popularity and Microsoft is getting a wee-bit worried.

Microsoft knows what's happening. Microsoft's recent push to combat Chromebook sales with low-priced Windows laptops makes it clear that Microsoft is aware of the threat Chromebooks pose to its desktop dominance.

According to NPD, a market-analysis firm that tracks retail sales, "Chromebook sales within the US Commercial Channel increased 250 percent year-over-year and accounted for 35 percent of all channel notebooks sales." Not too shabby.

Meanwhile, over at Amazon, Chromebooks, which have long dominated laptop sales, continue to be popular. As of July 20, of Amazon's top-ten best-selling laptops, five are Chromebooks, four run Windows, and there's one solitary Macbook Air.

In the larger arena, NPD found "total notebook sales … increased 36 percent, desktop sales jumped 24 percent, and overall PC client volume rose by 1 million units so far this year. Windows notebook sales were flat and Macbook sales increased more than 20 percent."

So where does the bulk of that notebook increase comes from? Chromebooks, of course.

"For the three weeks ending June 7, Chromebook sales made up more than 40 percent of Commercial Channel notebook sales, a significant bump from the 35 percent year-to-date." This sales bump is happening well in advance of school computer shopping where the Chromebook vendors expect to do extremely well.

“Building on last year’s surprising strength, Chrome’s unit strength ahead of this year’s education buying season shows how it has become a legitimate third platform alongside Windows and Mac OS X and iOS," said Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis.

Baker continued: "The next test for Chrome will clearly be the most difficult, as both Apple and Microsoft get more aggressive in pricing and deal making over the next few months. By the end of the third quarter, we will have a much clearer picture of the long-term impact Chromebooks will have in the commercial channel."

Find it hard to believe that Chromebooks can be so popular? Ask Dell what they think about the matter.

Dell had to stop selling its Chromebook 11 because it couldn't keep up with the demand. In a statement to CNET, a Dell representative said, "Due to strong demand, the Dell Chromebook 11 is currently not available for order on Dell.com. It continues to be available for our Education customers and can be ordered through their sales representative. We will offer it for sale again on Dell.com as soon as possible."

Last, but oh so telling, Microsoft recently put up a site explaining why Windows laptops are better than Chromebooks.

Starting to get a little worried by Chromebooks,  Microsoft? It sure looks like it.

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