I’ve been preaching the benefits of Chromebooks over Windows since the first commercial Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5, rolled off the production line in June 2011, 10 years ago. But it’s only in recent months that Chromebook sales figures have shown others are joining in. With Microsoft last week announcing Windows 11, I wonder if executives saw those numbers too and decided it was time to launch a new Windows desktop before Microsoft’s Azure-based cloud PC.
You do not believe me? Consider this: In the first quarter of 2021, Windows fell to 75% of the global PC market from more than 80% in 2020, according to IDC analyst Linn Huang. Windows hasn’t had such a small share of the desktop computer market since the 1990s.
Windows used to dominate the desktop. According to Statista’s count, as of January 2013, Windows had almost 91% of the market. But it has been slowly declining since then, and in November Statist had pegged Windows’ market share at 73%.
At the same time, Stock Apps reported that global Chromebook shipments were up 276% year-over-year, almost reaching sales of 12 million units in the first quarter of 2021 alone. Now, 276% is not negligible. And although 12 million is still far below Windows PC and laptop sales of 84 million units for the same quarter, it is not insignificant either.
PC vendors can certainly see those numbers. HP and Lenovo dominate the Chromebook market, with 7.5 million units sold, or 60% of total shipments in the first quarter of this year. Other vendors are benefiting more than ever from Chromebooks as well. Acer, for example, shipped 1.43 million Chromebooks in the first quarter, 178% more than in the first quarter of 2020. Simultaneously, Dell nearly doubled its sales to 1 million units sold. However, Samsung was the real winner in terms of growth; Its Chromebook sales increased an astronomical 2,233% year-over-year to 1.2 million units in the first three months of 2021.
For the first time in many of our lives, Windows faces a major challenge on the desktop. Apple and Mac fans, of course, have always had their 10% or so of the market, while hardcore Linux users – that’s me! – hold with its perpetual 1%.
So it’s no wonder Microsoft pulled the Windows 11 rabbit out of their research. I keep thinking about what Microsoft Really you want users to move to your Cloud PC Desktop-as-a-Service, but you also know that most people are still comfortable with your PC-based Windows model.
It could be that Cloud PC is proving harder to perfect than Microsoft expected; It should have already come out. We’ll see what Microsoft has to say in its annual Inspire partner conference in mid-July. If officials are talking about Windows 11, rather than Cloud PC, we will know that cloud-based Windows has been put on the back burner.
I think Microsoft is making a big mistake running Windows 11. It hasn’t come out yet, and users, including experts who know Windows as well as I know Linux, are reporting that even the newest PCs don’t support Windows. In fact, Microsoft already admits that almost half of its Surface line will not be able to upgrade to Windows 11. If your Surface laptop is four years old, you are probably out of luck.
However, do you know what you will be able to upgrade your Windows 10 PCs to? Chrome OS, or to be more precise, CloudReady OS. This is a Chrome OS compatible operating system that is based on Google’s pure open source. Chromium OS. (It was created by a company called Neverware, which Google acquired in late 2020).
CloudReady OS is not yet fully compatible with Chrome OS. It does not support the Google Play Store nor does it run Android applications. But I’m absolutely sure it will.
You can manage it with Chrome management and the Google admin console. Ironically, you can implement it with Microsoft Windows Deployment Services (WDS) or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). You can also install it with other enterprise installation programs, such as Altiris or Symantec Ghost.
And unlike Windows 11, which seems to be very demanding on the hardware that it will work with and work well with, you can install CloudReady OS on any PC with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. However, Neverware advises you not to run it on systems from 2007 or earlier. Yes, that is correct. It is quite possible that you have some dusty Windows XP and Vista machines that can run the CloudReady operating system.
Windows 11? I do not think so. Heck, let’s face it: you don’t want to run Windows 7 on boxes with 2GB of RAM.
My point is, if you want a good, affordable upgrade for your existing PCs, you should look to CloudReady and not Windows 11. And, if you’re looking for new PCs, and your users don’t require Windows 10-specific software, you should consider Chromebooks. You will be glad you did.
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.