How the Chromebook became a must-have of the pandemic

·2-min read
Over 30 million Chromebooks shipped worldwide in 2020.

Boosted by home working and distance learning, Chromebook sales reached record levels worldwide in 2020. And it's easy to understand why -- these easy-to-use computers offer all the tools many people need to work or study at a lower cost than classic PCs.

Global Chromebook sales hit an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to data from Canalys, with shipments reaching 11.2 million in the last three months of the year. Over the year as a whole, more than 30 million of these PCs were snapped up, an unprecedented uptake! This sudden enthusiasm is largely linked to the covid-19 pandemic and the various restrictions put in place in most global regions. With staff working from home and students switching to distance learning, people's needs for personal computers have never been so high. Meeting user needs and at a lower cost than traditional PCs, Chromebooks have logically been a hit with younger users.

A Chromebook is a laptop that runs Google's Chrome OS operating system. This gives users facilitated access to the entire Google ecosystem, starting with the Chrome internet browser, which serves as a gateway to productivity. Google proposes a whole host of online services, whether for creating documents (Docs, Sheets), storing or sharing them online (Drive), not to mention video conferencing (Meet). Chromebooks don't usually come with much storage space, encouraging users to store almost everything in the cloud. Most of the main PC makers currently feature Chromebooks in their ranges.

A Chromebook has many advantages. First, it costs less than a regular PC, largely because it doesn't include much onboard storage space and it runs Chrome OS, which is free, rather than Windows. Moreover, these computers meet the daily productivity needs of professionals and students thanks to the many online tools that users can access. And seeing as Chromebooks aren't too demanding to run, battery life is often over 10 hours.

On the other hand, only apps available in the Google Play Store can be installed on a Chromebook. The range of compatible software is therefore more limited than with a Windows PC, even if the basics are all covered: office computing apps, multimedia players, basic photo editing apps, etc. Still, you may not find much salvation when you look outside the Google universe.

As the Chromebook turns 10 in 2021, models from brands including Acer, Asus, HP and Lenovo are all on the market for under €500. Certain higher-end models, like the Asus Flip C436 -- a touchscreen PC that's fast, lightweight and goes the distance -- sell for over €1,000.