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The Evolution of Chromebooks


What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is a laptop computer running Google’s proprietary operating system, Chrome OS. The key features of a Chromebook are that they are browser only, lightweight and affordable. At first, the product received mixed reviews, however, in 2015, the sale of Chromebooks overtook that of MacBooks in the US with Google selling approximately two million Chromebooks. The success of Chromebooks has been largely due to the education market, as Chromebooks fill three big needs: they’re easy for students and teachers to use, they’re easy to share and they’re easy to manage. So how did Chromebooks evolve into what they are today?



The first step in the evolution of Chromebooks was the release of Google’s first browser only laptop – the Chromebook. The affordable laptop was released in conjunction with Acer and Samsung. The product initially received mixed reviews from critics, as many claimed Chromebooks lacked the functionality of traditional laptops. However, with programs like Chromebooks in Education, as well as the low cost hardware and upkeep, Google’s Chromebook had the potential to excel in the education sector. By January 2012, despite commercial sales being flat, Google had placed almost 27,000 Chromebooks in schools across 41 states, including ‘one to one’ programs, in which a computer is allocated to each student.



In 2012, Google took the next step in the evolution of Chromebooks by making them more user friendly, by adding a number of major features and making hundreds of improvements. This was done by pushing out the latest version of Chrome OS, known as Aura. The Aura update gave users the look and feel associated with both Windows and Mac OS. Additionally, Google launched the Chromebox, which was for desktop use at home or in the office, and a new Chromebook with their partner Samsung. However, by 2012, the most significant impact the Chromebook had made was in the education sector, with over 500 school districts in the United States and Europe using Chromebooks. At around $299 Chromebooks were not only affordable but allowed students to access all information, regardless of device, by just signing in to their Chrome account. Despite this, there were only 400,000 Chromebooks sold in 2012 and there was a negligible market share of 0.2%.



Compared with 2012, by the same period in 2013, 1.76 million Chromebooks were sold in the US, representing 21% of the US commercial business-to-business laptop market. Consequently, on the 21st February 2013, Google released a premium product called the Chromebook Pixel. Priced at the upper end of the laptop market, the machine featured a touch-screen which had the highest pixel density of any laptop. However, in 2016 the Chromebook Pixel was discontinued as Google didn’t have plans to restock.



Helping to spur Chromebook sales along, Google launched an app designed for teachers called Google Classroom. The app aimed to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments in a paperless way. The primary purpose of Google Classroom is to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students. However, Google was heavily criticized for allegedly data mining students’ browser history, searches and other usage of services for advertising. In 2014, Google announced that it would stop scanning students Gmail messages for advertising purposes following privacy concerns. Despite this in 2014, Google’s browser only Chromebooks were overtaking Apple devices, as Schools utilizing Chromebooks stated that test scores had improved dramatically since implementing the browser only device.



In 2015, Chromebooks sales volume were up. It was estimated that worldwide Chromebook sales would reach 6.4 million units by the end of 2015, a 27% increase over 2014. The Chrome laptop was eating into Microsoft’s market share, and had overtaken Apple devices. The evolution of Chromebooks had benefited the education sector, as schools preferred Chromebooks over Apple’s iPad, due to the fact that the browser-only device was considerably cheaper than full-sized iPads. Businesses still hadn’t embraced Chromebooks as much as the education sector, with 1% of sales coming from the business sector.



In 2016, the education sector were buying more Chromebooks than all other devices combined, overtaking Mac shipments to become the second most popular PC operating system in the US. Google stated that they had often been told that people wish they could do even more with their Chromebooks, such as running more apps, use office files more easily, connect with a variety of apps and do more when they are offline. As a result, Google decided to bring Google Play to their browser only Chromebooks. This allowed users to download and use Android apps, meaning businesses could make Skype calls and work with Office files and be productive offline. Google also launched the ASUS Chromebook Flip that had a great keyboard and touch screen for immersive experiences in educational apps, as well as an updated Chromebook Pixel for use at home or work. As a result, Chromebooks reached 58% of device sales in 2016. Due to the popularity of Chromebooks in the US and worldwide, in 2016, Impero started catering to Chromebooks.



At Bett 2017, Google expanded upon the evolution of Chromebooks by announcing a new generation of Chromebooks for Education. The new versatile devices brought even more mobility to a wider range of classrooms worldwide, including the US. One of the products launched was the HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 Education Edition that was designed with the specific needs of schools in mind. Google also announced a new browser-based version of Google Earth that made it even easier for teachers to bring the world into the classroom using Chromebooks. Consequently, in 2017, Chromebook sales grew by a further 20%.



At ISTE 2018, Google announced many new updates to the Chromebook. Firstly, the Chromebook is now in tablet form. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10, is the first tablet running the same reliable operating system as the beloved Chromebook. The device has the same speed, ease of use, security and affordability of a Chromebook laptop, but in a lightweight durable tablet. Google continued the evolution of Chromebooks by announcing that students can now learn using virtual reality on their Chromebooks. Students can create their own virtual reality without any prior experience and utilize Google’s Street View content. Teachers also have access to a new Teacher Centre that is a one-stop-shop for training materials and resources. As a result, it is estimated that 8.9 million Chromebooks will be shipped worldwide in 2018.


To find out more about how Impero can support your Chrome devices, book a demo here!

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