4 in 5 Chromebooks sold to US students in Q2 as demand rises
Education buyers ignore campaign group's intense criticism of device's lifespan, 'expect expiration dates for milk, not tech'
Chromebook shipments are back in the black – just – and makers of the hardware have the US education sector to thank where buyers ignored a campaign group's recent intensive criticism of the tech's lifespan.
A buying frenzy during the pandemic led to hefty double digit jump in sales of Chromebooks – 30 million devices were sold in 2021. Demand tailed off after customers had their fill and turned off the procurement taps.
Numerous vendors including HP and Lenovo reduced production last year and tried to clear remaining stocks before they aged. Now, after seven quarters of straight decline, things might be starting to look up again, depending on which analyst you listen to.
Canalys estimates that 5.861 million Chromebooks found a new owner in calendar Q2, equating to growth of 1.2 percent year-on-year. HP grew 69.2 percent to 1.56 million units and Lenovo was up 14.5 percent to 1.34 million.
"Chromebooks' return to growth was heavily driven by a strong demand in the education sector in the US," said Kieren Jessop, research analyst at Canalys. "The US accounted for 81 percent of global Chromebook shipments."
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He said that ahead of the start of the forthcoming school year, buyers in education applied for the US government's third round of the Emergency Connectivity Fund. This "supported" the rollout of 5.1 million of the devices.
"However, the use of taxpayer money for Chromebooks has recently come under scrutiny, with the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund publishing a critical report about the lifespan on devices," Jessop added.
The report, published in April, said the organization could "expect expiration dates for milk, but not for laptops." Clearly the wonderful world of planned obsolescence is a new thing to some people.
"We cannot afford to stay on the disposability treadmill," said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, the director of PIRG Education Fund's Designed to Last campaign. "For the sake of Americans' wallets and America's environment, all tech devices should last longer. Google can lead the way by slowing down the 'Chromebook churn'."
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He estimated that doubling the lifespan of the 48.1 million Chromebooks used by K-12 students could save taxpayers stateside around $1.8 billion dollars, assuming there are no additional maintenance overheads. Google should extend the Automatic Update Expiration for all models to 10 years, he added.
Jessops at Canalys pointed out that "schools holding onto older Chromebooks could face disruptions from usability and experience issues."
Over at IDC, analysts estimate sales of Chromebooks into the channel actually shrank 1.8 percent in calendar Q2 to 5.8 million units. It described the decline as "minimal" as customers expedited orders to avoid the "expected increase" in the ChromeOS "licensing cost in the second half of the year."
So maybe the Chromebook form factor has more challenges ahead than just a campaign group. ®