​Here a Chromebook, there a Chromebook, everywhere a Chromebook

In a world where PC sales continue to slump quarter after quarter, Chromebooks are one of the few bright spots
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Other laptops may be declining, but 2015 saw Chromebooks continue to rise.

I used to carry ThinkPads, starting with the IBM models and then Lenovo's versions, with me everywhere. They were, and still are, great laptops. Then I started using Chromebooks. I still have a couple of ThinkPads, but they never leave my office. Why? Because a Chromebook can do anything I want, typically deliver battery life that can see me through a whole day of work at a coffee shop, and are immune to almost all of Windows' security woes. I'm not the only one who loves them.

ABI Research, a technology market research leader, has found that Chromebooks were the best-selling laptop computers in 2015. The research firm expects Chromebook will ship more than 8 million units by year's end.

In a world where PC sales continue to slump quarter after quarter, Chromebooks are one of the few bright spots. Jeff Orr, ABI Research's Research Director, said in a statement, "Industry professionals can expect the notebook PC market, including Chromebooks, laptops and ultraportable PCs, to remain roughly flat year-on-year in 2015, with flat to slightly positive growth projected through 2020,"

Orr continued, "Specifically, data suggests a 2016 sales surge in both Chromebooks and ultraportable PCs as consumers continue to adopt Chromebooks into classroom settings and 2-in-1 ultraportable PCs maintain their trend status as the future of portable computing."

Chromebooks have done especially well in schools. Futuresource Consulting claims that Chromebooks accounted for more than 50 percent of US education devices sales in the third quarter. That jump came primarily at the expense of iPads and, to a lesser degree, Windows PCs. That's up from 40 percent year-over-year, and less than one percent back in 2012. Pretty good for a kid that's just gone from kindergarten to second grade.

Top five 2015 Chromebooks for students (and the rest of us)

So much for the good news.

All together, an estimated 163 million notebook PCs will ship worldwide during 2015. That sounds better than it is. The ultraportable PC and laptop segments are actually expected to decline in 2015 by 14 percent compared to 2014.

The blame for this falls primarily on unit volume losses at Acer, ASUS and Lenovo, among others. It hasn't helped any that long-time vendors Samsung and Sony are leaving the laptop market. Apple is still doing well. ABI predicted that Apple will close out 2015 with 32 percent share of the ultraportable PC segment. Its MacBook Air models gets the credit for this.

"Historically, laptops, being the mainstay portable computer, accounted for most of the unit volume in this market," said Orr. Looking towards tomorrow, Orr added, "it will be interesting to watch the rise in ultraportable PCs, with many technology suppliers, such as Intel, already coming out with advanced portable computing configurations aimed to maximize product flexibility."

As for myself, no matter what Intel does or how Microsoft markets the Surface 3, I and ABI Research, expect the Linux-powered, cloud-based Chromebook to continue to lead the way in laptop growth.

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