Chromebooks with Google's Chrome operating system have been introduced to the education market in particular, thanks to its browser-based simplicity and affordability, and initiatives such as Google for Education. However, Chromebooks are still a relatively rare show in companies. Will 2017 be the decisive year for Chrome OS? Several recent platform developments suggest it may be like that, but Microsoft has also woken up to the Chromebook challenge this year.
Unfortunately, the evaluation of how many Chromebooks have been sold is not easy for the major analyst firms. IDC includes Chromebooks in its quarterly PC market figures, but does not split numbers to allow comparisons between Chrome OS, Windows and MacOS systems (IDC numbers for "traditional PCs" also exclude Windows tablets and 2-in-1 devices removable). ) Gartner does not track Chromebooks at all in its PC market figures, but it does include Windows tablets such as Microsoft's Surface Pro.
Here are the statements related to IDC's Chromebook from its latest quarterly PC market reports:
"Despite the general contraction, Chromebooks remain a source of optimism [in the US market] and that the category gains momentum in sectors outside of education, especially in financial and retail services. "
"The US registered a slight decline but otherwise it was also ahead of the forecast due in part to Chromebook activity … Chromebooks continued to be a major source of growth in the volume of purchases in the middle of the quarter ".
"After a strong holiday season at the end of 2016, the consumer PC market [US] witnessed a comparative slowdown this quarter with lower total sales, while the commercial PC market came out strengthened mainly by the growth of Chromebooks. "
Gartner has estimated the number of Chromebooks were shipped worldwide in 2015 with 6.8 million, and increased to 9.4 million in 2016, an impressive growth rate of 38.2 percent . The IDC figures for the total PC market (including Chromebooks) in those years are 275.8 million and 260.1 million respectively, which means that the Chromebook share is small but increases: from around 2.5% in 2015 to 3.6% in 2016. Gartner forecasts that Chromebook shipments will continue to grow, up to 10.9 million in 2017 and 11.9 million in 2018.
Although the Chrome OS / Chromebook platform is working well in the educational, retail and financial markets from USA UU., Some recent developments could help you get out of these geographic and sectoral niches in the future.
Play Store support
Back in May of last year, Google announced that Android apps would be available on Chromebooks through the Google Play Store, expanding the range of software available to Chrome OS users . However, not all Chromebooks are compatible with Play Store due to differences in the hardware platform and other factors. Google maintains a list of Chrome OS devices compatible or compatible with Android applications. Here is the situation at the time of writing (beginning of December 2017):
There are 29 Chromebook providers on the list, offering a total of 93 devices: 57 have full Play Store support through the stable Chrome OS channel, two run the most regularly updated Beta channel, while 34 have support with Android apps through Play Store & # 39; for some time in the future.
According to AppBrain, there are currently just over 3.5 million Android apps in Play Store, of which 13 percent are classified as & # 39; low quality & # 39; That leaves about three million regular Android apps, though most will offer a less than optimal experience on a Chromebook because they were originally designed for the smartphone format: to rectify this, developers will need to adapt their applications to the largest screen of the Chromebook. and the keyboard / touchpad input.
Office Mobile for Android
For many business users, the availability of Microsoft Office applications is crucial when selecting a computing platform. Therefore, the recent news that Office Mobile applications for Android (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote) would be available for Chromebooks, initially in the preview, were welcome. In a blog post on November 30, Microsoft said: "Earlier this week, we launched a preview of Office Mobile applications for Google Chromebooks, which were originally designed for Android phones and are not yet optimized for the format. from Chromebook We have done some initial work on the end-user experience and we want to collect feedback from customers.As with all our mobile applications, an Office 365 subscription is required to edit documents on devices with a screen size of 10.1 inches. or higher ".
Alternatively, you can use Office Online, the browser-based suite from Microsoft that is primarily targeted at home users as an alternative to Google Drive applications. Office Online provides free and reduced versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.
In August, Google introduced a business-centric version of Chrome OS in an effort to increase its business credentials. Key features of Chrome Enterprise, which cost $ 50 per device per year, include access to Managed Google Play through an approved EMM (Enterprise Mobility Manager) and integration with the local Active Directory infrastructure. Here is the full list of business features compared to the current Chrome operating system:
Virtual desktops and applications
Another common business requirement is access to legacy Windows key or business line applications, which can be achieved through application or desktop virtualization. The leading application / desktop virtualization specialists, Citrix and VMware, allow Chromebooks to be used as thin clients.
Citrix, which announced a broader collaboration with Google in June, offers Citrix Receiver for Chrome on the Chromebook, which links to XenApp and XenDesktop on the back over local or wide area network connections. VMware's equivalent offerings are Horizon Client for Chrome OS and Horizon 7.
Android / Chrome OS Convergence
The availability of Android applications on Chrome OS devices is a step towards the long-rumored convergence of the two operating systems, to create a unified Google platform for smartphones, tablets and laptops. According to reports, the project that had to carry this out, whose code name is Andromeda, was canceled earlier this year. His replacement is an initial initiative called Fuchsia, which was described as "an early stage experimental project" by Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, at Google I / O 2017 in May. We look forward to more fuchsia newsletters with interest.
Windows 10 S: Chromebooks competition?
The rise of Chrome OS and Chromebooks did not go unnoticed by Microsoft, which delivered its response in May. The key feature of Windows 10 S is that it will only run the Windows Store applications verified by Microsoft, including traditional desktop applications that have been converted through the desktop Bridge toolset. Here are some more differences between the available versions of Windows 10:
Note that the Windows 10 S browser is configured in Microsoft Edge and that this is not configurable, discarding third-party browsers such as Google Chrome (among others). According to Microsoft, Windows 10 S is "ideal for people who have everything they need in the Microsoft store and prefer the peace of mind that comes with eliminating the risk of downloading applications from other places."
If users will find 'all they need', the Microsoft application store is the key point. Although it is not in any way about the total figures, Windows Store is far behind Apple and Google in this regard:
The Microsoft launch event also saw the first device with Windows 10 S, Surface Laptop, which starting at £ 979 (or $ 799 in the US) is priced much higher than most Chromebooks ( although the Google Pixelbook of £ 999 / $ 999) is comparably expensive).
More affordable Windows 10 S laptops were announced in September, along with a customized version of Microsoft 365, targeting so-called "front line workers" – the people behind the counter, on the phone, at the clinics, In the store and in the field, "as Microsoft said, the new Windows 10 S devices for Microsoft 365 F1 are from HP, Acer, Lenovo and Fujitsu, and range from $ 275 to $ 349, much in Chromebook territory.  The latest development of Windows 10 S is its upcoming availability in portable equipment by Qualcomm's ARM processors: Energy-efficient SoCs with integrated LTE connectivity, which are usually found in smartphones. & # 39; Always Connected & # 39 ;, initially from HP and Asus, will deliver, according to reports, around 20 hours of active use and 30 days in standby mode.The ARM version of Windows 10 S and the certified applications of Windows Store runs so natively, with compatible traditional x86 applications through an emulation layer. It remains to be seen how well this will work. The NovaGo of Asus will be shipped before the end of 2017, with a price between $ 599 and $ 799; HP has yet to disclose the prices of its Envy x2, which will be released in the spring of 2018.
Outlook for 2018
Although Chromebooks only represent a percentage of a single number of the total PC market, their numbers go On the rise, and Google's efforts to make the Chrome OS platform more business-friendly can begin to pay off in 2018.
The main obstacle to the Chromebook's progress is Microsoft and its ecosystem in Windows 10 development S: the hardware has a similar price, and the software is more familiar to most users.
Maybe it's a battle between app stores: will there be enough Android apps for Chrome OS, and will the Windows Store offer enough choice for Windows 10 S users? ?
Chrome OS Platform
Windows 10 S