No doubt about it, Chromebooks are here to stay

Google Chrome OS-based Chromebook laptops take significant share of retail sales in the sub-$300 market, says researcher NPD

Low-cost Chromebook computers are doing very well with retailers, in stores and online, and now make up a significant share of the low end market, said market research firm NPD Group.

Chromebooks that cost $300 or less account for anywhere from 20% to 25% of monthly sales of computers in this category, reports NPD.

There is no comparative data from a year ago because the Chromebook is so new, said Stephen Baker, an NPD analyst.

But in the span of a year, equipment makers "feel a lot better about merchandising and marketing" Chromebook laptops. "Retailers see an opportunity there and feel it isn't a niche product."

Chromebooks "have definitely made an impact and they are here to stay," said Baker.

Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS. Work is accomplished through the browser, and users are encouraged to store everything in the cloud, and little or nothing locally. Many Chromebook systems use SSDs.

Last month, Google said that Walmart and Staples had agreed to sell Chromebook computers in their stores. The impact of sales at those retailers on the Chomebook market are not yet reflected in research results.

A $249 Samsung built Chromebook has been the top selling laptop on Amazon for months.

Even with the success, Chromebooks remain an incomplete product line.

There is one high-end system, Google's own Pixel device, which starts at $1,299, and a number of low-end systems, such as Acer's 16GB system priced from $199 and available at Walmart. But there is very little in the way mid-range Chromebooks that are priced close to the average notebook, which NPD estimates is in the $480 range.

Baker said he expects the Chromebook market to fill out with new types of machines at different price points. "I think over time you will see Google and their partners look at how they can add value into higher price point machines," he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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