Chromebooks making their mark in US market

SAN FRANCISCO - Google's low-cost virus-free notebook computers are bucking the trend and are quickly carving out a growing market share in the United States.

According to NPD Group, over the past eight months the popularity of Chromebooks has grown at such a rate that they represent between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of the sub-US$300 (S$378) US notebook market.

According to the research firm, that makes them the fastest-growing part of the PC market based on price.

The figures, first reported by Bloomberg, come at the same time that another research firm, Gartner, published its preliminary figures for global PC sales and the numbers make for depressing reading.

Sales are down again, across all geographic regions. In all, the company claims that 76 million computers were shipped in the second quarter of the year, a 10.9 per cent drop on the same period last year and a record-breaking fifth successive quarter of falling sales.

Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa said: "We are seeing the PC market reduction directly tied to the shrinking installed base of PCs, as inexpensive tablets displace the low-end machines used primarily for consumption in mature and developed markets.

"In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC. This is also accounting for the collapse of the mini-notebook market."

Google's range of Chromebooks, built by Acer, Samsung, Lenovo and HP, are light and portable enough to be carried around like tablets (and at less than US$300, are cheaper than a number of high-end tablets) and yet offer the productivity of real notebooks but at a fraction of the cost, thanks to a free operating system and Web-hosted applications that are either free or can be rented as needed.