After a rough start, Chromebooks are starting to gain footing as a viable competitor to PCs.
The devices, which run on Google's Chrome operating system, once had limited appeal due to limitations such as an Internet connection requirement for full functionality. Now, it is bouncing back due to stronger demand from the education sector.
Gartner, a research firm, predicts that Chromebook sales will grow to 5.2 million units in 2014 from 2.9 million units in 2013. This represents a 79 percent increase from the number of Chromebooks sold in 2013. The projection is due in part to the upcoming Acer Chromebook 13, which has been praised for its high-end specifications and low price. The device, which runs on the new Nvidia K1 processor, has a full HD display and 13 hours of battery life. The specs are more impressive when considering that the laptop is available for pre-order for only $279.
While 2014 is expected to be the year Google's affordable laptop becomes a significant player in the laptop market, there is optimism that it will continue its accent over the next few years. According to Gartner, Chromebook sales will nearly triple to 14.4. million units by 2017.
"Competition in the Chromebook market is intensifying as more vendors launch Chromebooks, with eight models in the market in 2014," Gartner Principal Analyst Isabelle Durand said in a press release. "Now that the PC market is no longer growing strongly, vendors are searching for new business opportunities. They launched Chromebooks to revive interest in sub-$300 portable PCs once the netbook bubble had burst."
Gartner attributes the Chromebook's rise to the education segment, which accounted for about 85 percent of all sales of the device around the world in 2013. The United States is the biggest market for the laptop. Of the total number of Chromebooks sold in 2013, 82 percent were sold in the country. While Gartner identifies the education segment as the primary market for the device, the research firm said that Chromebooks have possible uses in the business sector, primarily in financial services, banking, hotel reception and estate agents. Durand said that the laptop may have benefits in terms of protecting data and collaboration.
Samsung led all Chromebook manufacturers with 1.7 million units sold in 2013, primarily due to models that were popular with customers in primary and secondary schools. Acer was far behind with just 21.4 percent market share, followed by HP's 6.8 percent.
Gartner predicts that Chromebooks will remain a niche product over the coming years. The research firm prescribes improvements to the device's cloud-based architecture to make it appealing to a wider market.