The headline of this article has been corrected to make clear that Chromebooks only outsold Macbooks to commercial buyers.
Google’s Chromebook had a stellar year in the US. The stripped-down laptop that functions as little more than a web-browsing device vastly increased its share of the combined PC and tablet market to commercial buyers—that is schools, businesses, government and the like—from almost nothing to nearly 10%. Chromebooks accounted for 9.6% of PCs, laptops and tablets sold in the US between January and November this year, according to data from the NPD group, a market research firm, while the share of Apple laptops sold in this combined category declined from 2.6% to 1.8%.
Chromebooks had a pretty good year with non-commercial buyers in the US, too. Amazon lists Chromebooks as the top two bestselling laptop computers on its US site. Their rising popularity is explained in part by the demise of the netbook, small laptops that were sold as cheap, low-powered machines but which never really took off because they didn’t do anything well. Chromebooks, by contrast, are full-size barebones computers that come with little on-board power or storage and are sold as devices to be used in conjunction with cloud services.
What the two have in common is price: Like netbooks, Chromebooks are very cheap. The Acer Chromebook, which currently tops the charts of sales in the laptop category on Amazon, sells for $199, about the same price as a cheap smartphone or a 7-inch tablet. By contrast, the Macbook Air, a powerful all-purpose computer, starts at a far higher price of $999. That goes some way in explaining why Chromebook outsold it by a factor of five.