Chrome OS dulled but HP still hanging in there

It's proving to be a long and slow haul for Google's Chrome OS, instantiated as Chromebook laptops (by Samsung, Acer, Lenovo and HP) and as a single Chromebox desktop item (somewhat like the Mac Mini) from Samsung,

Earlier this year Google itself did a 'Nexus' with the Chromebook concept and launched its own Chromebook Pixel priced at US$1,299 and designed to play the prototype "this is what an ideal Chomebook should look like" role.

But despite all the OEM pandering the buying public, or most of it, seems to have remained surprisingly unimpressed. The advantages and price of Chromebooks, I should have thought, make them a natural choice for a growing market segment especially during a world-wide recession, but the evidence is mixed.

The real 'numbers' such as they are (Google is keeping quiet) are highly disputed - 4 million sold to the middle of this year seems to be consensus, but Web traffic reports, for instance, put Chrome OS (as opposed, of course, to Chrome browser) at a tiny sub one per cent share. So it could be that many Chromebooks are being bought but used as occasional, backup or 'out and about' only devices, with the heavy traffic work (video and so on) appearing on other screens. As opposed to this Samsung's Chromebook has been the Amazon best seller in the cheap laptop category for the past year.

Then there's our house. We have two Chromebooks. One is over a year old and used constantly, the other just a few months. Neither has given a second's trouble to their owners. They're light, the battery charge lasts all day and they do everything you need them to (except store music - I'm told you have to get an iPod for that). Homework, research and Facebook seem to be the main uses and I'm seriously considering getting one for myself.

So what's the truth?

I suspect the numbers (the real ones that Google has) are actually showing tell-tale signs of steady growth from a very small base. That HP - which has almost certainly done rather more research than me - has decided to go to the trouble of stumping up a second Chromebook might indicate that Chrome OS is on a slow burn and HP thinks it's worth staying on the train - at least for now.

It's latest Chromebook, just announced following some leakage, is shipping this week in the US for $279. A quick specs run-down if you like that sort of thing: it's called the Chromebook 11, it has an ARM-based Exynos 5250 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and two USB ports and a video out port. That last means it should be possible to plug it in to a favourite screen and keyboard to use as a desktop.

You also get the standard 100 gigabyte cloud storage for two years from Google to go with it.

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