For me, Chromebooks have always existed like flossing: I’m aware of it as a concept, and I know it’s a big part of some people’s lives, but I had mentally dismissed Chromebooks as a Windows Phone-esque oddity.
But while I wasn’t paying attention, Chromebooks have started outselling Macbooks in the US.
According to analyst data from IDC spotted by The Verge, Dell, HP and Lenovo combined to ship nearly two million Chromebooks in the first three months of 2016, beating US Mac shipments estimated at 1.76 million units. That’s the first time Chrome OS has ever beaten out Mac OS in the States.
To be clear, these are estimated numbers, and they don’t mean that the Chromebook market is bigger — Macbooks sell for 5-10 times more than Chromebooks. But it’s still a huge achievement for Google, which has been slowly toiling to turn Chrome OS into a practical option for millions of non-power-users.
What also bodes well for the future of Chrome OS are the kinds of people who buy Chromebooks: overwhelmingly, it’s students. Kids who won’t grow up thinking of Chrome OS as Windows-lite, but instead as a fully-fledged platform that runs all their favorite Google apps.
This is all without considering the kinds of changes Google is likely to make to Chrome OS in the near future. Android apps already run (kinda) on Chrome OS; some kind of merging of the two platforms could well be coming.
If (once) that happens, Chrome OS is only going to get more practical as a platform. With cheap hardware and access to millions of apps, more expensive (and slower!) Windows laptops will become a harder sell. Advantage Google.