Add Toshiba to the list of manufacturers joining the Chromebook bandwagon. The hardware maker announced its Toshiba Chromebook on Monday in Las Vegas, where the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is getting underway.
The new model, in addition to being Toshiba’s first for this Net-based platform, is also the first Chromebook with a 13.3-inch screen, since others have been smaller or, in the case of HP’s recently released model, larger at 14 inches. The Intel Celeron processor-based unit also features a TruBrite twisted nematic (TN) screen with 1366 x 768 resolution, 2 GB of memory, a 16 GB solid-state drive, 100 GB of free online storage at Google Drive for two years, two USB 3.0 ports, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It is expected to go on sale in mid-February for a retail price of $279.
The Chrome OS is designed to run almost entirely online through the Google Chrome Web browser, with apps and much of the data in the cloud. Laptops using the platform have been steadily attracting interest because of their low prices and low maintenance.
With cloud-based apps, organizations do not need to manually or remotely update a fleet of computers every time there’s a new application release, and much of the security is handled by Google’s maintenance of Chrome OS and related apps online.
Late last month, industry research firm NPD Group caused a stir when it reported that Chromebooks represented 9.6 percent of laptop sales through B2B commercial channels, from January to November 2013. This large increase from its 0.2 percent position in 2012 would by itself warrant attention, but many Google-watchers neglected to note that the report looked only at selected commercial channels, not the general market. In the overall PC/tablet market, IDC has reported that Chromebooks do not yet top 1 percent.
Even so, NPD’s stats showed Chromebooks booming in sales through these channels while Apple notebooks dropped from 2.6 percent to 1.8 percent and Windows fell from 42.9 to 34.1 percent, both over the same period.
Acer, Samsung, HP, Google
The traction of Chromebooks in the larger market is also coming into focus. Over the holiday season, for instance, Amazon reported that three of its top four bestselling laptops were Chromebooks, including Acer’s C720, Samsung’s Chromebook and HP’s Chromebook.
These kinds of trends could be worrisome for both Windows computer makers and for Apple. Chromebooks have clearly forged a beachhead in the educational market, long an Apple mainstay, and large businesses are looking to Chromebooks for those employees who only need some light productivity tasks, like e-mail, word processing or spreadsheets, plus access to the Internet.
In addition to Toshiba, which had announced in early fall that it would be releasing a Chromebook model, Chromebooks have also been released by Acer, Samsung, HP and Google itself. Later in January, Dell’s Chromebook is expected to go on sale.