Chromebook sales jump thanks to education sector

Google's Chromebook is seeing healthy growth. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Google's Chromebook is seeing healthy growth. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Google's Chromebook sales are expected to reach 7.3 million in 2015, driven by the demand in the education sector, industry survey results show.

According to results from Gartner, sales of Google's PC competitor jumped by 40% in the US and 27% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

But it's mainly the sales in the education sector that is driving the success of the Chromebook.

"Since the first model launched in mid-2011, Google's Chromebook has seen success mainly in the education segment across all regions," said Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner.

In North America, 4 820 000 Chromebooks were sold in 2014, and that number is predicted to grow to 6.1 million by 2016.

Though the devices had a slow start in EMEA with 620 000 sold last year, Gartner projects that over 1.2 million will be sold by the end of next year.

Education

In the education sector, the devices have proved a hit and accounted for the majority of sales, said Durand.

"In 2014, the education sector purchased 72% of Chromebooks in EMEA, 69% in Asia/Pacific, and 60% in the US."

The PC market has also seen a timid return to growth spurred on mainly by the educational sector.

IDC numbers showed that PCs grew 2.8% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2014, building on a slow recovery.

The Chromebook is seeing healthy growth in the educational sector. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

"The market's growth was also spurred by several mid- to large-scale education deliveries that took place across the region in Q4 2014, with the largest being in Pakistan," said Fouad Charakla, a research manager at IDC Middle East, Africa.

But Google may find challenges in expanding the market, particularly in areas where people may not be aware of the internet-connected machines.

"Google is gaining credibility and seeing success with Chromebooks in the consumer retail space, but has to improve brand awareness, especially outside the US market, where consumers who may be familiar with apps such as Google Docs do not know what a Chromebook is and what value it may bring," Gartner said.

Automatic updates

A number of manufacturers including Samsung, Toshiba and Acer have built Chromebooks which typically have little on-board memory, but are designed to connect to the internet.

The devices run Google's Chrome operating system, which could potentially rival Microsoft's Windows as the search giant's devices become more popular.

Unlike notebook PCs, Chromebooks are automatically updated and content is saved to Google Drive, making it instantly accessible on other internet connected devices.

But the internet-focused nature of the Chromebook may also hurt expansion in developing markets where the cost of connectivity is high relative to that of developed countries.

"The major factors that affect the adoption of Chromebooks by consumers remain the connectivity issue in emerging markets, but also the ability for users to understand and get used to cloud-based applications, and keep content in the cloud and ecosystem," said Durand.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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