Where Are All The Chromebooks? - InformationWeek

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Where Are All The Chromebooks?

Despite brisk Chromebook sales, online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely registers with those measuring Web traffic.

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By many accounts, Chromebooks are flying off store shelves. But wherever they're landing, they're doing so without leaving tracks. Online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely registers with those measuring Web traffic.

There's little doubt outside of Microsoft -- which insists Chromebooks are not real PCs -- that the Chrome operating system had a breakout year in 2013. After a slow start in 2011, Chromebooks now account for 21% of notebook computers sold in the US, according to NPD Group. Two in three of the best-selling laptops on Amazon during the 2013 holiday season were Chromebooks. Google's Chromebook hardware partners now include eight of the top computer makers in the world.

Chitika, an online advertising network and Yahoo partner, recently concluded a five-month study of Chrome OS and Linux Web usage growth. The company found that the Chrome OS drives 0.2% of desktop Web traffic in North America.

That represents a doubling of Chrome OS traffic in September 2013, when Chitika's study began. But in the overall scheme of things, Chromebook-generated Web traffic remains insignificant. Chrome OS Web traffic is about a tenth of desktop Linux Web traffic in North America.

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Chitika notes that although Linux has always been considered a niche product on the desktop, Google's marketing efforts point to grand ambitions for Chrome OS. The company suggests that the modest growth of Chrome OS highlights the domestic PC market slowdown.

"[T]his could mean that either those new Chrome OS users don't collectively browse the Web all that much using their device, or that the Chromebooks/Chromeboxes themselves are not collectively being used at a high rate in general," said Chitika analyst Andrew Waber in an email.

Nontheless, the firm says that Google's recent decision to collaborate with VMware to offer virtualized Windows desktops on Chromebooks should encourage further Chrome OS adoption among businesses.

Judging Chrome OS by use of hardware risks missing the larger picture. Web usage offers only limited insight into the significance of a market. Apple's iOS still accounts for more Web usage than Android, but the days when that suggested Android could not complete are long gone.

What's more, Chromebooks are only part of the Google landscape. The Chrome browser really should be included, too, because the Chrome operating system doesn't offer any software that isn't also available in Google's browser.

Perhaps the best way to measure the success of Chromebooks is to look at Microsoft's reaction. When Chromebooks debuted, Microsoft ignored them. Now they're being trashed in Microsoft's marketing. Clearly, Microsoft thinks they matter. In time, Chromebooks will show up more prominently in Web traffic graphs.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/24/2014 | 12:50:49 PM
Re: -- Chromebook off line? Is it possible
I second your question, Paul. How can you use a Chromebook and not go online. WHat am I missing?
User Rank: Ninja
2/24/2014 | 9:19:07 AM
Re: Chromebooks and Windows Apps
I think the "second laptop" reasoning is one of the most likely causes for not seeing a big increase in traffic from ChromeOS.  It's not that they aren't being used they just aren't taking the place of a heavily used device.  I can think of a few places where a Chromebook would be perfect like my garage where I have a netbook that does nothing but stream music when I'm in there.  Or my in-laws desktop that is only used about 2 hours a week to check email.  There are a lot of places where a lighter weight OS work just fine so I'm not ready to write ChromeOS off just yet.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2014 | 10:29:24 AM
Chromebooks and Windows Apps
The people that bash Chromebooks have an all-or-nothing approach to IT.  They concentrate on what Chromebooks can't do instead of considering the fact that what they can do is enough for many types of users.  Chromebooks are a great choice for education, as a second home laptop, or for users that spend most of their time in a browser and want a device that starts up fast and is easy to use.

It's true that Chromebooks rely on having an Internet connection.  But more and more offline applications are becoming available for Chrome OS.  Besides, when the Internet is down, I'm sure that many Windows device users don't get much work done either.

What if you want to do some work from home, and your company's applications are Windows-based?  You can use a product like Ericom AccessNow, which is an HTML5 RDP solution that allows you to connect from a Chromebook to Windows applications running on Microsoft RDS or to full Windows VDI virtual desktops, and run them in the Chrome browser window.

For an online demo, open your Chrome browser and visit:

Please note that I work for Ericom.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2014 | 7:35:52 AM
Re: Here's cloud in yer eye
The idea that using cloud storage requires "a degree of tech sophisticstion which rules out the great majority of the average American consumer" is pretty counter-intuitive.

I started using Dropbox long before I put a Chromebox on my desk and a Chromebook in my laptop bag. Downloading and installing it on Windows and Mac didn't strike me as any harder than downloading and installing any other program, and using it is as easy as ... well, as easy as saving your files like you always have.

While ChromeOS doesn't have a Dropbox application per se, a lot of the Chrome apps have "save to/load from Dropbox" built in (in addition, of course, to being integrated with Google Drive).

Anyone who can figure out how to play solitaire in Windows can easily handle setting up and using cloud storage.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 9:24:20 PM
Re: Not registering?
By itself, all it is, or at least all I saw, was the Chrome browser. That by itself should be enough to do almost anything on the cloud. But, people have been able to install Android Apps and Ubuntu Linux. I don't know if these are "sanctioned" moves or not, but I do know that they have been done successfully, and people are using these additions for practical purposes.

User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 8:46:13 PM
Re: Bought for a mobile use purpose?
It seems confusing that Chromebooks are not registering. Is ths some sort of glitch? I feel like it must be. Chrome OS devices are getting into the hands of users. I think the platform has good potential as a third PC OS alternative. And the price point that it is at is really attractive. 

For many web-based users, a Chromebook is great. But it still has a ways to go in offering applications like Mac or Windows PCs do. 
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 7:01:17 PM
Not registering?
I thought the chromebook was basically google in a laptop form. How can one use a chromebook and not go online? I thought that was the biggest use for it.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 4:50:38 PM
Clarification, please
>> Online usage of Chrome OS hardware on the Internet still barely
>> registers with those measuring Web traffic.

Does that mean that people aren't using their Chromebooks at all, or that they are not using them in the way that Google had hoped, that is, logging into Googledocs?

I was considering buying a Chromebook as a backup computer about a month ago, and even if I had, I was only planning on using it on a semi-emergency basis anyway. If it would have served satisfactorily on that basis, and I'm sure it would have, it would still have been a "success", even though little used.

There are a torrent of laptops available on the market now that are too weak to be able to support Windows 7 that serve just fine with Ubuntu (Linux), and I bought one of those for that purpose. BTW, it is possible to install Ubuntu on a Chromebook, so many types of useful work can be done even without an internet connection.

The thing I like most about the Chromebook is that most versions use SSD's rather than HDD's, which means there is one less fragile laptop thing to worry about.




User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 11:40:07 AM
It's about the applications
I personally think that the biggest hinderance to mass adoption of Chromebooks is that if you look at the types of applications that people tend to use on laptops, its applications that are used for content creation....Microsoft Office, Adobe products etc.  Until these are more natively supported, people might view Chromebooks as fancy tablets for surfing the internet.

That being said, I do love the idea of leveraging Chromebook as a hybrid in that it can support Android applications and also support traditional desktop applications.  Once this is mroe intuitive and people are comfortable about how this fits, especially students who love the pricepoint, we should see an uptick in adoption.

Right now it's still a novelty or an anomaly, so many folks might not be comfortable buying in until they really understand the user experience, which will only come from getting the device into people's hands and letting them experience it.
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 11:37:09 AM
Chrome OS sounds better than it is
The idea and price points of Chromebooks and Chrome OS sound great to many people, but when using the devices reality sets in. It is a myth that most users only do web browsing, email, and some light office work. And Chromebook means giving all your data to Google for them to do whatever they want with it. THAT is the biggest deterrent to using a Chromebook.
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