Chrome steals a march on Windows

 
The new HP Chromebook

The dramatic slide in sales of PCs continues, but for one new player in this market this is an opportunity. Google has launched another of its Chromebook laptops this week - made by HP in this case - and is poised to grab a bigger share of a shrinking market.

That won't amuse Microsoft whose own mission to expand beyond its PC powerbase isn't making much progress.

Google's Chromebooks are quite limited devices that only really function well for web-surfing, email and document writing rather than for more sophisticated applications. Nevertheless, their price is making them attractive to anyone wanting an easy way of getting online and doing some work without going to the expense of buying a tablet whose touch screen interface might not suit them.

The latest figures from Gartner, reporting an 8.6% fall in PC sales in the last three months compared to a year ago show that the trend is away from devices like the Chromebook and towards tablets. The volume of sales in the back-to-school quarter were at their lowest level since 2008.

Against this background though, the Chromebook is surging ahead. Gartner reckons two million will be sold this year, over five million in 2014, and 12 million by 2016. Now that will still leave the Chrome OS with just over 3% of a PC market where margins will grow ever slimmer and profits will be harder to find.

But for Google that's not really the point. Every time someone opens a Chromebook they are signing into a Google account and almost certainly becoming part of the search firm's contextual advertising audience. That, rather than selling hardware, is how the company makes its money - and its reach on PCs, mobile phones and tablets is growing all the time.

True, its relationship with manufacturers is increasingly important. Google has already worked with Samsung and Acer on Chromebooks, and now HP, still a huge force despite losing number one spot to Lenovo, is putting its weight behind the Chrome OS.

By contrast, Microsoft is going it alone as it tries to build a presence in a mobile world increasingly dominated by Google's Android. Its Windows RT operating system, designed to offer users the benefits of the touch screen tablet experience combined with the familiar Windows desktop, has failed to excite the big manufacturers.

Right now, Microsoft's Surface RT - recently revamped - is the only tablet using the OS, with the likes of Samsung, Dell and Lenovo all dropping it in favour of Android or the full-strength Windows 8.

Now Microsoft still has much closer and longer relationships with manufacturers than Google, and is making far more in profit from Windows and Office than the search giant makes from advertising. But Microsoft executives who get their hands on the latest HP Chromebook may feel slightly sick if they turn it over and read the message on the back - "Made with Google."

 
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 100.

    'I work in the IT Dept of a FTSE 100 company whose CIO has a strategy of eliminating Windows wherever possible, - is a great believer in Cloud and consequently has introduced Chrome books en masse. '
    Please what is this company? Its heading for oblivion. I don't want to be holding its shares when it does.
    Eggs, baskets, are words that come to mind.....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 99.

    Chrome could be better in so many ways. (changing the "ok/cancel" dialog graphics as a version upgrade is almost insulting). The config screen is Horrible. Anyone ever exported specific data parts of selected bookmarks ? Password manageability. From an end users point of view, 90% of version upgrades seem to be about changing the icon designs.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 98.

    Interesting to see an earlier comment from Xeon (11) who is head of technology of a large company. I work in the IT Dept of a FTSE 100 company whose CIO has a strategy of eliminating Windows wherever possible, has shifted the entire company to Google (email, docs and apps), is a great believer in Cloud and consequently has introduced Chrome books en masse. So not all Execs think alike.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 97.

    Under the hood, Linux is a fundamentally better operating system than Windows and so most technical people would be happy to see the replacement of Windows with a Linux/Unix based OS (eg ChromeOS, IOS, Android, OS X, Linux).

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 96.

    @Andrew: "And not Win 8"

    Talk about starting from a negative position and moving backwards from there. What does it matter whether it's Windows or not? It has to WORK. And Windows usually does everything you could want, whereas Chrome usually only does everything Google tells you you want.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 95.

    94. Ranjan: It's worth noting that the latest Chrome OS has fairly robust offline capability, unlike earlier revisions which became doorstops when disconnected from da web. I've used one of the Samsung Chromebooks for a weekend (the 550 maybe?) and it's pretty awesome. And not Win 8. ;) Add a Nexus 7 for mega-portability, and Google are really kicking the Surface where it hurts I think.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 94.

    Something like this in ONLY relevant in countries that have, at the very least, 95% (fast!!!) internet coverage. That leaves a huge part of the world out of the equation. I live in the Caribbean. These is no way I would ever buy a laptop, nor recommend it to my customers, that relied on the internet being available constantly. PC/Mac has a problem, call the local tech. This goes down who to call?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 93.

    RCJ is SO prone to mention the fruit-based comany that I read the whole article slowly looking for the obligatory mention. But it wasn't there !!

    Good boy - keep it up - and you made me read your whole article!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 92.

    Funny. Rory finally avoids mentioning Apple, in an article that is more relevent to them than may others.

    With Mac Book Pro's holding a much lower market share of laptops than Windows devices, surely Apple should be more concerned about another niche player?

    This just reads like anther anti Microsoft article.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 91.

    Having used Google's online offerings for almost a year for work purposes, I've been very disappointed. There's absolutely no way I'd ever consider a Chromebook for doing anything more than web browsing and media consumption. Which is what tablets are better at in any case.
    Any real work gets done on a PC/Mac running either Windows, OSX, or Linux. Not ChromeOS, iOS, RT, or Android.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 90.

    I bought a ChromeBox for my daughter aged 7. It's on wi-fi so no connectivity issues. It's an extremely simple, powerful and easy to maintain device.

    I like the ability to easily limit access to undesirable content as it's all controlled by one Google account. ChromeOS is very forward thinking and a glimpse of the future.

    Its limitation? No Minecraft - a big issue when you're 7.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 89.

    Ubuntu, no need for anything else?
    Phone, Tablet and PC....
    http://www.ubuntu.com/

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 88.

    With Chromebook you really need to be connected to the Web. Practically everything is web driven, and only a small amount if data is stored on the physical computer.

    This poses the question, what if I can't get a connection. Answer a useless box of electronics.

    Of course the more data you accumulate, the more you will pay to store it in the cloud on an annual contract, and what of security?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 87.

    It's basically a re-branded, stripped down version of Linux. You can actually download the OS and install it. I found it rather restrictive,but if you just want the web it should be fine

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 86.

    @Hellsyson The PC market is shrinking, it's a statistical fact. The point is not how long PC systems last before people decide to upgrade, consumers are replacing their PC's with other products. Dell is struggling and going private to maneuver faster out the market. HP, another company failing. Copying the move IBM made out of the consumer PC market many moons ago. The writing is on the walls.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 85.

    Since the PRISM surveillance program hit the news implicating Microsoft, Apple and Google, I'm amazed that anyone uses the products of these grubby little enterprises. I switched to Fedora 10 years ago because I despise the business models and proprietary software licences of these companies. Fedora is worth trying, you needn't be an aerospace engineer 'cos it just works, and it costs nowt.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 84.

    I'd rather anything...other than be "Goggled" at by "Google"!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 83.

    I was in on the birth of personal computing, Sinclair ZX spectrum, BBC, Amstrad, Macintosh etc. Much of what is available now are not computers, but entertainment toys. Once you could look at the program and work out what was wrong and fix it, now it’s deliberately opaque. If you buy a book you don’t expect the language to become unreadable after a few years, so you have to buy a new one!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 82.

    Rather a lot of the negative comments towards Chromebooks appear to come from Microsoft employees/glove puppets. But the intensity of such attacks says perhaps the impression Microsoft now tries to give that they no longer behave as they did in their bad old days of "anti-competitive by any means" behaviour is misplaced. As does their scroogled campaign

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 81.

    I don't care what OS is out there, so long as I can still use software that runs well on my XP OS. Having to upgrade, at vast expense to stay "up to date" with a program because my OS is no longer supported is very poor service.

    I can still buy and use many interchangeable parts on my old car, why cant OS be like this, so all programs work all the time. Very annoying this OS battle for supremacy.

 

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