The report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.Mark Twain
Okay, before the history buffs light the torches, I am well aware that this is an inaccurate quote of the late, great Mark Twain. He actually stated:
…I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration.Mark Twain
Anyway, the misquote has stuck and it has great application in this particular scenario. So, saddle up because there is a rant ahead but I’ll keep it relatively calm because there is an important lesson to be learned from all of this. What am I talking about? I’m glad you asked.
For the second time in less than six months, reports are swirling about a steep decline in Chromebook shipments. While the decrease is real and the reports are legitimate, many are using the opportunity to paint Chrome OS in dim light as it pertains to the platform’s market impact. Did shipments of Chromebooks decrease from Q4 of 2020 to Q4 of 2021? Absolutely. As a matter of fact, according to IDC, overall shipments decreased a staggering 63.6% from just over 13 million to a quaint 4.8 million last quarter.
Now, that may sound like bad news for Google and Chrome OS but there are some very important things to consider when comparing sales metrics for the past two years. First and foremost, you have to consider the pandemic. As students and employees alike were thrust into remote work and learning situations, it only makes sense that Chromebook sales would skyrocket. It wasn’t just Chromebooks. The PC market, in general, saw explosive growth in 2020 and that was a direct result of the high demand for laptops amid the COVID-19 madness.
We are now two years into the global pandemic and while things aren’t great, the overarching mindset has shifted back to a new form of normality. Most of us have learned to navigate the world of hybrid work and school and most have settled in with a device that works for their specific needs. Of course, sales are going to slump. No product or service can boom forever. Sales spike, demands increase and then, the market stabilizes as those demands are met. Besides, despite the decrease, Q4 2021 shipments were still above Q4 shipments in 2019 before COVID struck which were roughly around 3.9 million units.
Another point to consider when talking about numbers is the overall YoY growth of a platform. From the beginning of 2019 to 2020, Chrome OS saw an impressive 109% increase in shipments. That growth continued through the majority of 2021 with the OS still posting a respectable 13.5% YoY increase in shipments. This, despite a global supply chain and chipset shortage. All this while the top five tablet makers around the globe reported a scant overall increase of only 3.2% and that includes Apple’s iPads. Oh, don’t think that I forgot about PCs. Chromebooks weren’t the only devices to see a sharp downturn in sales. PCs did see positive growth in 2021 but the YoY were neck and neck with Chrome OS at 14.6% and that simply speaks to the overall market conditions. Every OEM has seen decreasing numbers for a wide variety of reasons. Chromebooks are not the exception here.
Now, I’m not saying that Chrome OS is poised to take over the world but to imply that Chromebooks have fallen into some sort of abyss is a bit sensational. The fact of the matter is, Chrome OS has secured a foothold in education that is likely to stay in place for many years to come. Now, manufacturers have set their sites on the consumer and enterprise markets and started pumping out new Chromebooks that have the same cutting-edge features and designs found in other operating systems.
This isn’t even taking into account the fact that Google is working hard to make Chrome OS a bona fide gaming platform. Whether that happens or not, it is clear that Google is all-in on Chromebooks and OEMs have picked up the ball with the hopes of scoring big with the emerging OS. That said, let’s all take a step back, take a deep breath and just admit that we are living in some screwy times. Markets are volatile and numbers only tell part of the story. It appears that things are leveling off to a degree and most OEMs are seeing positive sales and that’s something that we can all applaud regardless of which team you’re rooting for. Right?