Intel: 9.4 Million Chromebooks Sold in Q3 2020

Posted on January 11, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Hardware, Chromebook, Chrome OS with 30 Comments

Intel revealed today that hardware makers sold at least 9.4 million Chromebooks in Q3 2020, good for 122 percent growth year-over-year.

As you may recall, PC sales hit 73.1 million units in that quarter, thanks to what Gartner called the strongest consumer PC demand that it had seen in five years. But that 9.4 million figure, which presumably only counts Intel-based Chromebooks, is particularly impressive. By comparison, Apple, the fourth-biggest maker of computers, sold just 6.2 million Macs that quarter. So Chromebooks outsold the Mac by over one-third, and achieved 12.86 percent market share.

Intel has announced that new generation Pentium Silver and Celeron chipsets will be used in entry-level Chromebooks soon, offering 144 percent performance improvements on the platform, and adding support for Wi-Fi 6.

And looking forward, Intel says that we will see the first Chromebooks based on 11th-generation Core processors in early 2021, followed by the first premium Chromebooks with Intel Evo graphics and Thunderbolt ports.

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Intel: 9.4 Million Chromebooks Sold in Q3 2020”

  1. CajunMoses

    Probably no way of guesstimating the end-user age demographic. But would be informative to learn whether adults seem to be overcoming their fear of trying out Chrome OS for the first time.


    Impressive numbers given that lots of Chromebooks don't run on Intel CPUs. Wonder what the total count is?

  3. ringofvoid

    Chromebooks are not the right fit for everyone. One of the Premium comments mentioned "Tech Guy" Leo Laporte who recommends iPad and ChromeOS to users who do not need the greater capabilities of a general purpose OS like Windows, MacOS or Linux. They are simpler devices that require less expertise to maintain and keep secure. The idea being pick the right tool for the job.

    The device update process for Chromebooks is more akin to smartphones than updates for a general OS. Google produces an update image that is for that hardware model, the device downloads it into the 2nd boot slot, user reboots to the new OS image. The updates are not like Windows, Mac or Linux where individual files are assessed, patched or replaced then processes restarted or device restarted to finish patching & replacing files and settings. Google was saving resources by keeping the device lifetime short, but thankfully they're being more more generous with new devices. Apparently Microsoft is exploring this same update method for Windows 10X updates since it's faster and more reliable.

    Google's real genius on Chromebooks is the admin tools. A school or enterprise IT dept can manage these things without breaking a sweat. Increasingly real work can be done with nothing more than a web browser: even line of business apps often use a web interface. In general, students can do their schoolwork with just a Chromebook. Why go to the time and expense for Windows & Mac endpoint management/security if the users don't need anything more than a Chromebook when the management is simple and cheap?

  4. wright_is

    Interestingly, I did my regular check and Google (Germany) are still not selling any Chromebooks, either their own (although I think they have binned their own Chromebooks recently?) or third party ones.

    Although does now at least list 10 different Chromebook models. But the prices aren't very competitive.

    The collapse of Privacy Shield in Europe doesn't make it any easier - you can't use a Chromebook with a Google account for business or educational purposes at the moment, which doesn't make them any more attractive.

    • vladimir

      In reply to wright_is:

      I am surprised that this happens in Germany and not all over Europe. Schools here in Sweden continue to hand over Chromebooks to kids full steam. Both my daughters got one. At the university where I work, we are only allowed to use onedrive/sharepoint to store personal data, because they are claimed to be GDPR compliant. Dropbox use has been forbidden, which is unfortunate because it's an excellent service

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to wright_is:

      Why can't Chromebooks+Google accounts be used in education in Germany? I could understand THAT they're not used in primary or secondary schools, but university students and faculty are actually prohibited from using them? Even with a Chrome OS Citrix Receiver app to connect to Windows application servers with different accounts on those servers?

      • wright_is

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        The PII has to be stored on European servers or stored on servers in an area of equivalent data protection (see GDPR, it includes Japan, Uruguay and Iceland among others, but not the USA), so account information and user data can only be stored on EU servers that cannot be accessed by US entities - that means Google would have to farm out their Cloud to a third party in Europe, where they have no access to the servers (CLOUD Act). Privacy Shield was an attempt to circumvent this, but the US Government did everything in its power to sabotage it.

        Basically, until the US Government takes its responsibilities seriously, using cloud services in the US is a major risk and a definite no-no for education. Google Cloud, Microsoft 365 etc. are all affected.

        We get around it by using anonymised M365 accounts and no user information in the M365 instance, no data stored in SharePoint, OneDrive, Exchange Online etc.

        The main sticking points are:

        1. Collapse of Privacy Shield
        2. CLOUD Act (any servers owned by a subsidiary of a US company cannot be used, or servers of companies that have a US presence - sales office etc.)
        3. Patriot Act
        4. FISA Courts
        5. National Security Letters

        GDPR is incompatible with all of those. Authorities can only gain access to the data with a valid EU warrant. A National Security Letter or a US subpoena would be an illegal access to the data and the owner of the data (the company that stored the data on the cloud) would be responsible for a data breach, even though the cloud provider provided access to the data - the data owner might be able to get the cloud provider fined as well, but they couldn't sue the cloud provider directly, that is in the contracts. That would result in a fine of up to 20m€ or 4% of international turnover.

        That is a huge risk to calculate into the convenience of using a US based/influenced cloud service.

        It annoys me, that the US can't get its act together. There are some great cloud services out there, but they are just (legally) unusable / unjustifiable at the moment.

        I recently switched away from OneDrive at home to HiDrive, as it is 100% EU based.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to wright_is:

          until the US Government takes its responsibilities seriously

          Ah, differences in perspectives.

          Perhaps the US government believes that, for it and the US and the people of the US, its highest priority is the security of the US, its people and its government, and Europeans' digital privacy isn't a priority at all. I'm NOT saying whether that's right or wrong, only that it should be a blindingly obvious perfectly logically consistent alternative to making digital privacy the top priority. Different people/countries could differ on that prioritization, no?

          I have to admit I just can't take claims of major risk of full-time university students' PII being accessible by the US government seriously. So perhaps I and people like me in the US are, in fact, the cause of Europe's problems vis-a-vis digital privacy.

          the US can't get its act together

          Difference in priorities.

          From one perspective, the US knows what it's doing, and Europe is reveling in ignorant bliss. Apologies to Milton, but disclaimers like Abandon any expectation of privacy all ye who logon here is adequate warning for me. I have 6 email accounts, work, personal professional and personal private. My employer has legal access to EVERYTHING in my work email account. My personal professional email account is rather boring, and anyone with access to compendia of the conferences I attend would have access to my contact list. My gmail account is my spam magnet, and I really don't care whether XYZ Spam Corp gains access to that contact list so it could spam Acme Phishing Inc or vice versa.

          Getting back to the topic of the US, don't hold your breath waiting for anything to change.

          • wright_is

            In reply to hrlngrv:
            until the US Government takes its responsibilities seriously
            Ah, differences in perspectives.

            No. The US agreed, under Privacy Shield to a bunch of rules, including going through "proper channels", i.e. EU courts to get at EU data, they would put in a permanent ombudsman to deal with questions and complaints and a raft of other responsibilities under the treaty, including making EU data excepted to FISA, NSL and US subpoenas.

            They never fulfilled any of these responsibilites that they had agreed to. That is what I am talking about.

            "I have to admit I just can't take claims of major risk of full-time university students' PII being accessible by the US government seriously."

            Again, the risk isn't the data being seen by the US Government per se, just that that is illegal from the standpoint of the jurisdiction of the data owner (EU). That means that if I, as the data owner, "allow" Google to hand over the data to the US Government (I have no choice and probably won't be informed), I am the one facing a 20M€ fine! That is the risk.

            Also, we have people who won't use Teams, because their name has to be stored in AzureAD in our tenant, because the data is stored on Microsoft servers.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to wright_is:

              The ECJ declared the EU–US Privacy Shield invalid on 16 July 2020.*

              The US used its well-known mind control rays to make the ECJ do that? Or is there some other Privacy Shield?

              To be perfectly brutally honest, if US corporations are exploiting European prioritization of personal privacy to put European corporations at competitive disadvantage, all's fair in commercial competition.

              • wright_is

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                Part of the reason the ruling was made in favour of Schrems was because the US had failed, for 4 consecutive years, to fulfil their commitments to the treaty, so they said the treaty wasn't worth the paper it was printed on.

  5. sscywong

    Any data on real life usage of Chromebook? Like if all these 9.4M are for replacement purpose then (1) it completely lost the purpose of thin client can last longer due to the lack of needs to constantly upgrading client side software (2) Chromebook in essence doesn't benefit from all these work / learn from home plan at all

    • wright_is

      In reply to sscywong:

      Up until a re-think in 2020, older model Chromebooks have a relatively short shelf-life (shelf-life is the correct term, they were supported for 3 or 5 years from the model announcement), but I think that was extended last year.

      Given our Windows devices are usually replaced on an 8 - 10 year cycle, it would make moving to Chromebooks more expensive.

  6. ebraiter

    Friends don't let friends buy Chromebricks.

    If I got one [for free as I wouldn't get one otherwise], I'd wipe it and install a real Linux distro.

    Two people I know bought one only to return.

    • jedwards87

      I have moved several friends and co-workers to Chromebooks because I thought they would work for them. It was great for me as I never got calls anymore to help them with computer issues. All of them seemed to like. However over time every single one of them had gone back to either Windows or MacOS. There was always something they ended up needing that the Chromebook either could not do or could not do well. I still recommend them to folks that have no computers skills and/or only use the internet as they are so easy to setup and use but I try hard to make them understand the limits.

    • Paul Thurrott

      That's the open-minded approach we try to preach here! Wait.
  7. harrymyhre

    Leo Laporte gave a really good explanation of what a chromebook is (and isn’t) on his Sunday “tech guy” netcast.

  8. ghostrider

    Typing this on an Acer Chromebook Spin - brilliant device, and not an annoying Windows popup or 'reboot now' warning in sight!

    Interestingly, we also had an older laptop with a 4C Pentium N4200, 4GB and 64Gb eMMC storage. Windows ran like a dog on this - constantly complaining of low space and updates (when they worked) took an age. I rebuilt it with Neverware's CloudReady and now it flies - it's like a laptop reborn. The best bit, on Windows, the battery would rarely last more than 3 hours, but now it's more like 6-9 hours (I kid you not!).

    • ebraiter

      In reply to ghostrider:

      First, I don't get popups or reboot now. You don't seem to know that you can delay updates from installing or install after hours.

      Second, nobody would install Windows on 4GB of RAM with a Celeron processor. The same would be said if you installed macOS on the same system - if it was possible and legal.

    • chrisltd

      In reply to ghostrider:

      I had a similar experience with a Lenovo laptop from 4 years ago that struggled to run Windows 10. Cloudready made that machine usable again.

  9. madthinus

    Microsoft needs to slim down Windows 10 and get it to be able to refresh like Chromebooks.

  10. winner

    I bought my first chromebook in that quarter and have been happy with it.

  11. vladimir

    I wonder if Stadia plays a role in these numbers

    • Paul Thurrott

      I suspect it's mostly related to Q3 being the back-to-school quarter.
      • kalahari

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        Came here wondering if this was driven by the rapidly expanding online education demand, or a shift from another market.

        • Paul Thurrott

          Generally, Chromebook benefits from both, more from the former than the latter. But Q3 is the back-to-school quarter, so I think that explains why the surge was particularly big.
          • jsulliweb

            In reply to paul-thurrott:

            Though just to say it, I know schools that ordered Chromebooks back in April / May of 2020 that still haven't received their orders of Chromebooks (different manufacturers but Lenovo seems to be the worst/slowest). Not sure if that means the surge would have been bigger if the supply chain weren't so constrained, if a surge in personal devices cut into the manufacturing for the discounted education devices, or if something else was going on...

  12. Sprtfan

    I don't believe that the Gartner numbers include Chromebooks as part of their total which was 71.4 million units in Q3 2020. If that is the case, I really don't think you can use the avg of it and IDC to get a 12.86 market share for Chromebooks over that period. (assuming that 9.4/73.1=12.86% was where you got the number from)

  13. melinau

    As ever the problem with Chromebooks is Google.

    I do "sup with the devil" & do use a Chromebook & Google Services, but do so in the knowledge that it is a Faustian pact in which Google gains huge benefits & operates in ways which are sometimes less than straightforward...