Chromebooks – notebook computers running Google's Chrome OS – continue to expand their popularity, according to new numbers from NPD. The industry analyst firm took a look at desktop, tablet, and notebook sales over the course of 2013, finding that the low-cost, Chrome-powered devices took a significant portion of the U.S. commercial PC market. That segment describes devices sold through commercial channels like resellers, and according to PC World
, NPD estimated its total volume at 14.4 million devices. Whereas in 2012 they accounted for basically none of the market, Chromebooks in 2013 grew to hold more than 20 percent share of devices sold through resellers.
The reseller market is tiny compared to the larger PC market. While the commercial PC market moved 14.4 million units over the course of 2013, the U.S. PC market sold 16.4 million units in the third quarter of this year. The progress of Chromebooks in the market over the past year is still significant, but it is significant growth only in one sliver of the larger market.
Still, the devices have proved quite attractive to a number of manufacturers, who are eager to diversify their offerings in the face of an ongoing downturn
in the traditional PC market. Samsung, Asus, Acer, Dell, and HP all either have now or are planning to produce Chromebook models in the near future.
Chromebooks run the Google-built Chrome OS, and they pack generally low technical specifications, including low-power chips and low internal storage. They derive their utility from cloud services like Google Drive, which hosts a bare-bones productivity suite, and Pixlr, an online image editing program. Since they rely so much on the cloud, the devices are arguably useless when not connected to the Internet, though Google continually updates Chrome OS to add additional functionality for the devices.
Chromebooks were among the best selling items through Amazon's online portal, the online retailer announced on Thursday
. Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer were the top-selling notebooks on Amazon, with the Asus Transformer Book – which runs the Android operating system, also from Google – also in the running.
Microsoft, which publishes the Windows operating system that powers most traditional PCs, has taken note of this small but growing trend. The Redmond software giant has recently taken to bashing Chromebooks
in a series of ads deriding the cheap machines as insufficient for the average computer user.