The end of the year always sees a flurry of interesting sales statistics released, and this year is no exception. One of the most dramatic stories to emerge from this year is the rise of the Google Chromebook. In 2012 it languished on shelves, widely seen as a pointless device not worth purchasing. A few tweaks were made and in 2013 it accounted for 21% or all laptop sales and for almost 10% of sales of all computers put together.
What has made the difference? Three things stand out. The first is the adoption of a more flexible operating system that gives users more options than simply doing everything through a browser. The second is a shift toward enabling more things to be done offline. The third is a happy accident as far as Google is concerned: the increasing interest the general public has in cloud computing.
What early attraction the Chromebook had was largely due to its low price; however, the focus on the browser alone made it a one-trick pony few were willing to bet on. Even if its functionality has not really increased all that much with the new system, the user perception is that it has; more varied ways of approaching tasks mean that more users will be able to find ways of working that feel intuitive to them.
That the Chromebook’s success is worrying Microsoft is apparent from its recent investments in campaigns attacking it. These include the Scroogled campaign, which asserts that its users cannot be productive when offline – an interesting accusation from a company that, as far back as the launch of Windows ’98, was defending its own systems from similar accusations. The increasing availability of offline tools for the Chromebook, however, has helped it to tackle what was a real issue for many potential users.
The interest in cloud computing has seen users become much happier about spending time online anyway, using online tools such as Google Docs to manage their files and share them with others; because Google already had so many established cloud-friendly tools, it was well placed to take advantage. Despite the other changes, the rise of the Chromebook shows that users are increasingly comfortable with being online most of the time and makes Google AdWords look a lot more appealing as a way of reaching mobile device users for purposes such as local search.