Remote schooling in the pandemic has made Chromebooks a bigger force in the computer market



  • Chromebook shipments increased in the third quarter at a much faster rate than the wider PC market.
  • Schools held Chromebook pickup events at the start of the school year, and some parents opted to get children their own devices.



Sundar Pichai standing in front of a screen: Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome at Google Inc., holds up a new Chromebook Pixel as he speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular search engine, debuted a touchscreen version of the Chromebook laptop, stepping up its challenge to Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. in hardware.


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Sundar Pichai, senior vice president for Chrome at Google Inc., holds up a new Chromebook Pixel as he speaks during a launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Google Inc., owner of the world’s most popular search engine, debuted a touchscreen version of the Chromebook laptop, stepping up its challenge to Microsoft Corp. and Apple Inc. in hardware.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has forced kids across the country to attend school remotely, is helping Chromebooks push into the mainstream.

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Chromebook laptops run Google’s Chrome OS operating system. They can be cheaper than Windows computers and are much more affordable than Apple MacBooks. On Chromebooks it’s easy to use Google Classroom, the web-based program that teachers and students count on to organize their work while schools are closed.

Technology research firm IDC estimated that in the third quarter device makers shipped around 9 million notebooks running Chrome OS, up 90% from a year earlier, compared with the 15% growth rate for all PCs. Chromebooks represented 11% of total PC shipments in the quarter.

Microsoft’s Windows remains the dominant PC operating system. The Chromebook wave could cut into Microsoft’s lead if the pandemic leads users to get even more comfortable with Chrome OS and services like Google Docs.

“The typical game plan doesn’t really exist, at least in the recent quarters, because there’s been this gold rush for Chromebooks, so people take what they can get,” said Jitesh Ubrani, a research manager at IDC.

Chromebooks have been available since 2011. Acer, HP and Lenovo make some of the most popular devices, and Google has sold Google-branded Chromebooks since 2013.

Some schools purchased Chromebooks for students and promoted pickup events on social media.

Parents have also bought Chromebooks for their children.

Corey Richardson, head of research and strategy at advertising agency Fluent360 in Chicago,…

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