So, I guess this is why Microsoft is putting out negative ads about Chromebooks. NPD has tallied up sales of notebooks and tablets through U.S. commercial channel for the first 11 months of 2013, and it's come to a surprising conclusion: Chromebooks made up more than a fifth of the market.
Here's the snippet from NPD's writeup:
Chromebooks, and Android tablets collectively had the biggest impact on sales growth . . . Chromebooks accounted for 21 percent of all notebook* sales, up from negligible share in the prior year, and 8 percent of all computer and tablet sales through November, up from one tenth of a percent in 2012 – the largest share increase across the various product segments.
The asterisk after the word "notebook" points to a footnote that states, "Preconfigured desktop and notebook sales only." I assume that means the figure excludes barebones, DIY configs, and the like.
In any case, 21% seems downright preposterous for a line of machines that, with few exceptions, is limited to running web apps. Chromebooks simply don't support Microsoft Word, iTunes, or Skype, nor do they accommodate Linux alternatives. Web-based substitutes are available (including a Skype web client on Outlook.com), but not being able to run native software can be a hindrance. At least, I thought so when I reviewed Samsung's Chromebook a year ago.
Chrome OS does have advantages, though. Its locked-down nature makes the operating system more impervious to malware than Windows or OS X, and because everything is stored in the cloud, a hardware failure needn't cause data loss. Then there's the fact that Chromebooks are priced very aggressively, with the cheapest 11.6" models selling for just under $250. Since the demise of netbooks, it's difficult to find similar Windows systems for much less than $300. (Thanks to DailyTech for the link.)