back to article Is that a meteor crashing to Earth? No, it's Chromebook makers coming back to reality

The march of the Chromebook looks to be over for now, at least in the United States, as consumers and students had their fill during the pandemic and are now buying far fewer machines. Shipment data collated by Gartner shows that in a global PC market which grew 1 per cent year-on-year in Q3 to 84.147 million units, Chromebook …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Impressive

    HP gorged itself on the coronavirus and is just now realizing that, gosh, everybody who needs one has one now, and the future will not be so rosy.

    Thank goodness they have all these expensive analysts to reveal these things after the fact.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Impressive

      everybody who needs one has one now

      There are also folks who don't need one, but got it as there was nothing else available...

    2. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Impressive

      I would be more interested in seeing a comparison with the numbers from 2019. The year 2020 is forever going to be a statistical anomaly, so using it as reference is pretty useless.

      1. David Hicklin

        Re: Impressive

        I think we can add 2021 as another statistical anomaly based on the shortages triggered by the events of 2020

      2. Persona Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Impressive

        The year 2020 is forever going to be a statistical anomaly

        We hope.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Impressive

      If only, still waiting on an order from Q1 2021. Currently HP having issues getting hold of wifi cards for their notebook computers and getting chips for their USB-C to ethernet dongles.

  2. LastTangoInParis

    Wot no Wi-Fi?

    I'm pretty sure those HP dudes will know some people in heir own company who can roll-out an enterprise W-Fi network in the school.

    But anyhow, aren't Chromebooks time-bombed with a fairly short date? See here https://www.theregister.com/2019/08/22/buying_a_chromebook_dont_forget_to_check_when_it_expires/

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

      Good point. The device update end of life should, by law, be printed on the box of every device sold.

    2. The Unexpected Bill
      Go

      Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

      Google recently extended the lifetime of all new models to eight years from the date of platform release. I think they did so at the beginning of 2020 or thereabouts.

      Even as one of those obnoxious people who tends to keep his technology around until it's given every bit of good that it possibly can, I think that's pretty fair with the qualifier that you want to be sure of selecting a truly new model. Later Chrome OS updates added a field in the "About Chrome OS" part of the settings application indicating exactly when a model's support lifecycle ends. It would certainly be more helpful still if this information was featured on the carton or at the point of sale and maybe that will happen at some point.

      Realistically, all of this means you'll probably get about seven years. With many Chromebooks landing in the hands of children, I think a lot of them will be fairly used up by that point.

      By way of Lacros, Google's also been tinkering with the idea of further separating Chrome the browser from Chrome the OS as a potential extension of a given platform's life. (I'm only an interested party with a lot of time for cheap computers with low power consumption, and have no affiliation whatsoever with Google or anyone else who provides Chromebooks.)

      You can keep things going for a while longer, provided you're feeling somewhat adventurous. Many Intel (and possibly some AMD) Chromebooks can be modified to run an operating system of your own choosing, especially if that happens to be some variant of Linux. I'm hopeful that in time the same might be true for the ARM based Chromebooks.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

        I'm a huge fan of replacing ChromeOS with a linux that doesn't require you to report all your doing to the mothership - chromebooks tend to have good batteries and generally sufficient storage locally for day-to-day use, if you don't keep gigabytes of audio or video on them, though they do tend to be a bit short of RAM these days.

        Perhaps there'll be a glut of them on the market and the price might come down a little?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

          >Perhaps there'll be a glut of them on the market and the price might come down a little?

          My web browsing laptops are all $99 used chromebooks running GalliumOS (ie Linux+XFCE)

          Make sure you buy 4Gb ram, but 16Gb SSD is enough

          The Lenovo ones are mostly child proof = totally indestructible

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

            Yes, given the way browsers chew through memory, 4G is a minimum these days, which is annoying.

          2. Chz

            Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

            My 10 year-old managed to remove (and lose) a key off the keyboard of his Lenovo CB. Which has proved impossible to source short of buying a new keyboard, so he's learned to live with it. ("Why did you do that?" "I dunno.")

            I'd bought it to help with school things, and then 4 months later the school bought every child a Chromebook! Granted, ours is nicer and he gets to not have to carry the school's one back and forth but still...

            1. John Riddoch

              Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

              Yeah, my daughter lost a key from her Lenovo laptop - tried sourcing a replacement but didn't have any joy. Luckily (I suppose...) the entire laptop stopped working so had to go back for repair and they replaced the entire keyboard at that point; I guess they don't stock replacement keys, just the whole keyboard.

            2. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

              And he doesn't really even need a second Chromebook at home since all it is is a web browser with google.com set up as the homepage.

      2. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

        I think that's pretty fair...

        I don't. In fact I think it's incredibly wasteful and part of the reason we're polluting our planet to death.

        Many Intel (and possibly some AMD) Chromebooks can be modified to run an operating system of your own choosing...

        This ought to be true of every computer, including phones.

        1. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

          "This ought to be true of every computer, including phones."

          Why? A company brings a product to market. If it doesn't do what you want it to do, don't buy it. Plenty of people will if the restrictions keep down costs and thereby the selling price.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

            And which part of your reply addresses the environmental aspect?

            1. fandom

              Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

              The part where he says "don't buy it"

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

                Sorry, the invisible hand of the fucks up the environment^W^W^W^Wassumes infinite resources which is obviously not true. Environmentally unfriendly products should not be made in the first place.

          2. desht

            Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

            Ah yeah, let the "market" sort it out. Because that's worked soooo well to protect the environment so far.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

      Yes, but they wouldn't roll out the Wi-Fi for free. Given that in many places, the schools can't afford the Chromebooks, let alone the networking, an offer from HP to install Wi-Fi will be about as welcome as a lead balloon.

      1. LastTangoInParis
        Childcatcher

        Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

        Perhaps HP could do it for free under Corporate Social Responsibility to boost their street cred. This seems to be a new thing that vendors are being asked about, like offset exports but in your own country. I agree though that schools can barely afford pencils, let alone Wi-Fi.

    4. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

      The average computer is kept for 6 years before being replaced in the USA. Chromebooks now come with 8 years of support from the model's release date. On top of that, Neverware was bought by Google so its possible we'll see longer support via a "second life" type license via CloudReady in the future.

      So, 8 years is not bad at all.

    5. middle.earth

      Re: Wot no Wi-Fi?

      I have had a little Lenovo for almost two years and it does not expire for another three.

      I just bought a new ASUS big screen, awesome box, does not expire until 2029.

      I never had another machine with EOL "garanteed" that long before.

      If I am still alive when they expire, I can install 'nix on 'em.

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A plan to boost sales

    Simply introduce a new letter to the alphabet

    We've had the same alphabet since middle English.

    If we just add a few more letters the sales of laptops, keyboards, textbooks etc will be a giant boost to the economy

    1. LastTangoInParis

      Re: A plan to boost sales

      Perhaps force all laptops sold in the UK to support the Welsh alphabet, which has a few extra letters and some accents. Welsh is the only actual de jure official language in the UK, English is de facto official.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: A plan to boost sales

        But Welsh laptops would need to be Cinemascope widescreen to fit the Window titles - I really prefer 4:3

      2. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: A plan to boost sales

        No Z, Q, X (crap for scrabble), so easy enough to swap a few keys. The extra letters are stuff like 'ch' so not really extras.

        Bore da.

      3. SundogUK Silver badge

        Re: A plan to boost sales

        If there was actually a market for this, someone would be doing it.

      4. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: A plan to boost sales

        There are dead-key versions of English (UK) on most OSes.

    2. TripodBrandy

      Re: A plan to boost sales

      We should bring back the letter Thorn in to modern English, wouldn't þat be ace?

  4. Kev99 Silver badge

    Maybe realized they need real computers with realistically sized displays instead of glorified VTech toys. Remember netbooks?

    1. localzuk Silver badge

      Yeah, 11" screens are far too small. That's why 10" iPads never took off...

      Different sizes for different uses. An 11" Chromebook is perfect in a school environment.

  5. AMBxx Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Software update incoming

    That should stop stuff working and drive upgrades.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just bought two education model chromebooks because my kids school said they had to have them. Leaving aside the fact that I'd rather my kids used books, these chromebooks don't offer anything you can't do with a cheap android pad or phone yet they inexplicably cost the same as a laptop. They are not good value for money.

    One reason the sales might be low is that actually very difficult to buy chromebooks. The only ones that are easily available are already obsolete. The latest jasper lake models don't seem to be available in the UK yet, despite some companies claiming they are in stock. The school's preferred supplier is offering the older gemini lake models for 100 quid more than online retailers, but as I understand it, they are having trouble sourcing them.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      "The school's preferred supplier"

      And there is the reason for this entire Chromebook nonsense in the first place.

  7. jollyboyspecial

    One of the issues with Chromebooks and sales is that they potentially have a very long life.

    Most of my actual job is done in a browser. I have very little by way of local applications other than an office suite, which could clearly be done online. I have nothing that is processor intensive. The only other things I generally us is putty (yes I'm a network engineer) and command prompt. I have a four year old i5 laptop that in some jobs may be past the end of it's working life, but in my job it's probably way over specced. In my job a Chromebook, even quite an old one would be more than enough.

    I think there are two types of Chromebook buyers. Those who see a Chromebook as a cheap way of getting a laptop and are then a bit disappointed because they can't install locally the things they want. Then there are the people who can genuinely work in a browser all day long. For the latter a Chromebook could have a very long working life. If you're not going to use intensive local applications then you don't really need to keep on upgrading your laptop to deal with the latest heavyweight software. After all a lot of the heavy lifting is being done somewhere else.

    It's long been a thing in tech markets that you sell products with inbuilt obsolescence - even if it is often artificially induced. With the Chromebook that's much harder to do. So the market will naturally saturate because people don't *need* to buy a new one every other year. And of course buying second hand is less of an issue.

    1. Persona Silver badge

      It's long been a thing in tech markets that you sell products with inbuilt obsolescence - even if it is often artificially induced. With the Chromebook that's much harder to do

      No. With a Chromebook it's a inbuilt feature. You have at best 6.5 years and perhaps less than 3 years between buying a new Chromebook and it hitting the wall.

      https://www.theregister.com/2019/08/22/buying_a_chromebook_dont_forget_to_check_when_it_expires/

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. localzuk Silver badge

    Google's fault

    Honestly, this is Google's fault for being so darn US focused. Sure they sell stuff in other countries, but everything is built around the average American user. So, there's lots of little things that just don't fit other countries.

    If Google put more effort into international markets, Chromebooks would no doubt sell better.

  10. iron Silver badge

    > One of the challenges for Chromebook adoption in the schools outside of the US is that not all schools are Wi-Fi-ready.

    Lol. How about the fact that outside the US we're more distrustful of Google? I wouldn't buy one of those crippled advert terminals for someone I disliked.

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