Report: Chromebook Success Continues into 2021

Posted on May 6, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook with 32 Comments

A new report from the market researchers at Canalys claims that Chromebook sales surged 275 percent in the first quarter of 2021, dramatically outpacing the PC industry.

“Chromebooks are well and truly a mainstream computing product now,” Canalys Research Analyst Brian Lynch says. “While the education sector still accounts for the majority of shipments, their popularity with consumers and traditional commercial customers has reached new heights over the course of the last year.”

Overall, Canalys says that hardware makers sold over 122 million PCs in the first quarter of 2021, a gain of 53.1 percent year-over-year (YOY). But Chromebooks grew 275 percent to 12 million units in the quarter. That’s about 9.8 percent marketshare, not far from the 10 percent share that Chromebooks grabbed in 2020.

According to Canalys, HP and Lenovo “dominate” the Chromebook market, but companies like Acer and Samsung have found great success with Chromebooks as well. HP was the biggest maker of Chromebooks overall, with 4.4 million units sold in the quarter, a gain of 633.7 percent YOY. Lenovo (3.1 million units), Acer (1.4 million), Samsung (1.2 million), and Dell (1 million) filled out the top five.

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Report: Chromebook Success Continues into 2021”

  1. tommorton14

    Yet the Ipad outsold all Chromebooks combined by 3 million units. The numbers Apple generates are amazing!

  2. RobertJasiek

    The graph shows surge due to Corona for mobile devices, a desktop low in summer 2020 when everybody was awaiting next generations, mid-term desktop stagnation because this is the overall situation of desktops, and current almost-stagnation of desktops due to endless supply problems.

  3. bettyblue

    Forgeting about Google massive privacy issues (that I will never get around). Its all about money/price/cost.


    Chromebooks are a price choice for 99% of buyers. If they could or wanted to spend more money, it would not be on a better Chromebook. Public schools choose them because of price. My 3 kids all went to private schools. They got Windows, Office 365 and iPad's. The public schools in our area were Google schools, with a lab full of Windows computers to run things like Photos shop or CAD programs....basically beyond browser apps.


    I do know know of a single Chrome book user that actually likes them, beyond the price.

  4. melinau

    In UK Chromebooks have been widely sold to schools during the pandemic, particularly Primary (up to 11). These are really cheap low-spec devices. God knows how many this involves, but it's a lot....


    Despite my misgivings, not to mention cheepnis, I thought I'd better give Chromebook a go. I bought a "mid-range" Acer with a decent screen & processor. I like using this a lot, it's very fast to start & apps run well too. Some applications like Outlook are poorly implemented on this OS. Maybe MS's claim to be unifying the UI of various versions will help here. I think a more widespread adoption on PWAs would benefit the platform a lot.


    As an experiment I switched my entire workflow onto the Chromebook. Adding a 2nd screen, mouse & keyboard was a cinch and UI issues notwithstanding I managed to everything I wanted or needed with minimal fuss. Having said that I didn't try some of my more complex nested Excel sheets or heavily formatted Word dox etc. but those are mainly a pretty specialised use-case.


    I'm now happy to "work" in a totally mixed environment with Chromebook, Windows Laptops & Desktop, Android 'phone & iPad being used at various times. This takes me back to my entry into the whacky world of Computers, MIS & IT over 35 years ago. The true visionaries always emphasised the data, not the hardware or OS. The Cloud & Internet are the developments which are making this vision come true.

    • bettyblue

      I have Windows PC's and Mac's, iPhone and iPad. I have a Microsoft 365 E5 licesne at work and Office 365 Home for personal stuff.


      I NEVER use Outlook other than on the web these days. IMHO it is the best client. The search feature is second to none. Using multiple mailboxes, like shared mailboxes etc is super fast compared to the full clients.


      Outlook 365 on the PC is a CRAZY bloated mess. Outlook 365 on the Mac is just a broken mess (search is just so bad). The Outlook app on iOS is ok, but I much prefer the built in Apple apps (mail, contacts, calendar).


      If I had to use a Chromebook I would think the the web version of Outlook/Office dot com would work just as well as web version on Windows or a Mac....since its (Chrome OS) just a web browser.

    • ringofvoid

      Did you have the opportunity to compare the Android Office versions to the web based Office?

  5. ebraiter

    Except for those premium models - and I'm guessing few are buying them - I am sure most of what were sold were the cheap models that cost between $200 and $300. Unsure whether the manufacturers are profiting with these toys.

    I'm sure Linux zealots would buy one these [or get it for free] just to wipe the OS and put on a real Linux distro of their choice. The same for Windows fanatics. As For Mac lovers, nope!

    I've only know 3 people who have/had one. 2 returned and a third uses it very little.

    • bettyblue

      I would 100% agree and after the pandemic is over I fully suspect Chromebooks to nose dive. In 2020 it was all about having ANYTHING vs nothing and often a Chrome book was all that was available.


      I remember going with one of my employees to Micro Center in March of 2020 and buying 40 39 Lenovo Windows PC's for work. Why 39...it was all they had. There were cheap, $349 laptops that are already having battery life issues. There were Chromebooks available still, but my company went down that route, testing them, with 20 users in 2018...and no one like them. We still had 2 of them in the box late last year that we could not give away to any employee.

    • hrlngrv

      | Unsure whether the manufacturers are profiting with these toys


      Gotta amarvel at the condescension of random blog commenters questioning the basic financial sense of corporations which have been around for decades rather than spending any time pondering the mark-up on the last PC they purchased for well into US$ 4-figures.


      Simpler BY FAR to install Linux on a laptop with a 32GB HDD. Have fun trying to install Windows 10 on that size HDD.


      My work laptop is, unsurprisingly, my most used machine. My home office mini PC is my next most used. My Chromebook is what I take on vacation because with the Citrix Receiver app I can do everything I'd be expected to do for work while on vacation. As a thin client, Chrome OS is far more economical than Windows. Put differently, given its local storage requirement, no sane person would consider Windows an appropriate OS for a thin client. As for what else I'd need on vacation, a browser and movie player are about it, and my Chromebook is more than sufficient for those.


      BTS, real Linux zealots buy PCs with NO OS preinstalled.

      • ringofvoid

        Chromebooks get ragged on by OS zealots in every forum. I upgraded to a mid-range Chromebook last year & it's been great. I use PWAs, Android apps, and Linux apps seamlessly. I got the GeForce Now founders edition & I'm happily streaming 80+ Steam & Epic games (a ton of which were free from Epic). I got a USI pen and use it for drawing. I did need to take a certification exam and only Mac/PC were supported. Other than that it's worked for everything I've needed it to.

  6. scovious

    Schools seem to be on a buying spree...

  7. winner

    I bought my first Chromebook last year and it's been great as a second machine, mobile, to use around the house. Much better than a tablet as I can type on a keyboard and position the screen at any angle I like.

    • hrlngrv

      Usage seems to split between those who expect to type so much that they need a real keyboard vs those who get by with touch for the most part, including virtual keyboards. If one WANTS a real keyboard, one probably doesn't want a tablet. Good to have choice.

    • anoldamigauser

      I would gladly use such a device as a secondary machine. What I need is a Chromebook without the business model of Google.

  8. crunchyfrog

    Chromebooks had the advantage during the pandemic with their low price (usually) and dominance in the education space. My kids each have a school issued Dell Chromebook and my wife and I each own one as well although we don't use them anymore.

    I personally find ChromeOS fussy and annoying to do simple tasks that I can easily do in Windows or on a Mac. Of course, any computer with the Chrome browser can be technically viewed as a Chromebook.

  9. bluvg

    All these numbers are amazing (except Dell's). But 53% growth for PCs? That's astonishing. And while 275% sounds impressive (and Microsoft should indeed be worried), it's YOY over a much smaller number, and the market share needle didn't really move, as Paul notes.

    • ArvindV

      It's yoy, a much smaller number?? Yeah that's why it says it has a growth of 275%

      Chromebooks traditional have sold only that number each quarter. Whole 2019 sales was 17 million. Q1 2021 alone is now 12 million


      • bluvg

        Sorry, I worded that poorly. My point was about 53% YOY over a huge number (and saturated market) for PCs is very impressive; the 275% YOY for Chromebooks is over a comparatively much smaller number (Chromebooks vs. PCs). It's the old statistics issue of percentage increases over large and small original numbers.

  10. anoldamigauser

    I have to believe that this was driven by the education market. With everyone going to virtual learning, it was the only sensible solution that school districts could go to.

    If Microsoft wants to remain relevant in the education market, it needs to get Windows 10X out, and it needs to get it right. It has to be dead simple to deploy and maintain, and it does not need Win32 in containers adding complexity. No second chances at this point.

    • Paul Thurrott

      “While the education sector still accounts for the majority of shipments, their popularity with consumers and traditional commercial customers has reached new heights over the course of the last year.”
    • ArvindV

      As per this article


      "their popularity with consumers and traditional commercial customers has reached new heights over the course of the last year

    • hrlngrv

      | [MSFT] needs to get Windows 10X out, and it needs to get it right. It has to be dead simple to deploy and maintain . . .


      If MSFT were to make Windows 10X dead simple for New York City or Los Angeles school districts to deploy and maintain, MSFT would eliminate the value of its own administrator certifications.


      It may be far more valuable to MSFT to maintain its place in the enterprise, and that in turn may require maintaining the perception that the historical complexity of deploying and maintaining Windows PC adds value to the Windows environment.


      IOW, I figure MSFT has engineered itself into a chasm of its own making, and the only way out of that chasm means admitting and reversing mistakes. The MSFT corporate culture strongly resists such actions which would have been seen as signs of intolerable weakness in its past. Especially when probable revenue declines would accompany such admissions.


      Bluntly put, if MSFT wants to maintain the value of an MSCE certification, don't hold your breath waiting for Windows 10X to be as easy to administer as Chrome OS.

      • bettyblue

        Microsoft does not care about a MSCE certification anymore. Azure certifications is what they care about.


        My team and I managed our AWS, Azure and Microsoft 365 environments for over 5000 employees. Our dwindling on-prem servers are 100% virtualized in VMware and we managed all of it primarily from our Mac's. We have Windows PC's for testing as most of our users base in the company is on Windows 10 Enteprise...but for outside of that the cloud has made it even easier to NOT need a Windows PC.

    • timewash902

      There's no question it was the education market, due to the pandemic.

    • tdsmith

      I agree and I have also heard from several faculty at the community college where I work that curse chromebooks as they are unable to use all functions of the learning management platform we use in every class. The price point is great, but the functionality is currently limited.

      • ringofvoid

        I'd imagine that the next iteration of any education software will be able to run out of a browser rather than relying on Windows-only software. The growth of Chromebooks in the education sector is going to put Windows-only vendors at a disadvantage over time.

  11. erickleung

    If it is x86 CPU, Chromebook with Linux build in is possible to install virtual box. It could be configured as Virtual machine host to run Linux or windows...

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