13 March 2014

Forbes: “If Everyone Is Buying Chromebooks, Who Is Using Them?”

As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, the browser share of Chrome OS is not in sync with the perception cast by the NPD sales figures. Looking at StatCounter’s breakdown of the numbers, the browser share is approaching one fifth of one percent (Horace Dediu, @Asymco). That’s a rather big discrepancy. For hardware that requires a decent online connection to work, I would expect to see Chrome OS to be more visible than this. Ewan Spence

While the article is a couple of months old, more recent data continue to support the discrepancy. It’s hard to account for this, especially since Chromebooks are even more helpless without an Internet connection than tablets – at least on a tablet you can play games and watch videos offline. I could see two scenarios that could drive the difference in reported sales vs. usage:

  • A couple of weeks ago I met an American colleague travelling to Paris, just as myself. He had a Chromebook with him – which he said he liked, simple to use, just as the ads portray the devices – but he bought it as a gift for a relative or something similar, assuming that’s just what he or she wanted. Which got me thinking: large numbers of Chromebook could be purchased during holidays as gifts, only to find themselves in the hands of people who don’t really want yet another PC and instead would prefer a tablet (or better yet an iPad). Hence they politely accept the gift, put it away and quietly forget about it – just like any other gift you didn’t want.
  • Back home, I noticed another thing: the company purchased a fresh batch of PCs for new hires, at least 50 new machines. The interesting part: all the boxes were labeled Linux, so the PCs had Linux preinstalled; later IT formatted them and installed our custom Windows image. Hence bigger sales of Linux PCs, but no usage, as those machines never connected to the Internet with the original configuration. A similar situation could be happening with Chromebooks, with companies buying them in bulk, because they are cheaper, and later installing Windows from their company license pool.

Any other ideas?

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