The "good" news about the PC market is that, by IDC's count, it only declined by 1.7 percent in the last quarter. The only bright spots? Macs at the high-end and Chromebooks at the low-end. While Apple certainly wins when it comes to profit margins, Chromebook sales are surging upwards.
ABI Research found that, in the most recent quarter, Chromebook shipments increased by 67 percent quarter over quarter. The research company expects that year over year, Chromebooks shipments will double.
They're not the only ones who've seen Chromebook's growth. Stephen Baker, consumer research company NPD’s VP of industry analysis for consumer technology, said Chromebooks accounted for more than 5 percent of notebook sales and almost 20 percent of the under-$300 category.
Specifically, ABI found that Acer is continuing to maintain its lead over other vendors in the market, including Samsung, HP, and Dell. By ABI's count, the top three leading vendors, Acer, Samsung, and HP, accounted for 74 percent of all Chromebooks shipped during the first half of 2014. ABI doesn't see the top three changing in the waning months of 2014.
That isn't stopping other vendors from trying. Dell, for example, just released another Chromebook. Software vendors such as Adobe, which is bringing the Adobe Creative Suite to the Linux-based Chrome OS. also see Chromebook as a significant platform.
Why are Chromebooks growing while, according to NPD and other analysts, Windows PC sales are declining? ABI Research Analyst Stephanie Van Vactor said in a statement that “Consumers are hungry for a product that is cost effective but also provides the versatility and functionality of a laptop. The growth of the Chromebook market demonstrates a niche that is gaining traction among consumers."
It's not just consumers. ABI also found that vertical markets — especially education — are a driving force. In emerging markets, especially in Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe, business-purchasing entities account for 75 percent of Chromebook sales. Google is also making an enterprise push for Chromebooks with its Chromebooks for Work initiative.
Some people still doubt that Chromebooks are for real. Indeed ABI still has its doubts.
Van Vactor concluded, “Chromebooks may be a temporary fad similar to the netbook." But, she added, "the form-factor design and low-cost price tag draws considerable interest that may be a longer term trend. Chromebooks may have more of a place in the market than originally anticipated, especially as more vendors jump on board and sales continue to grow."
Recently, Chromebooks growth got the ultimate desktop compliment: Microsoft started competing directly against them. Microsoft has reason to worry; while Linux desktops per se never caught on, the Linux-powered Chromebook and Android-enabled tablets and smartphone are silently turning the end-user experience into a Linux one--even if they never realize what's happening.