Chromebooks in Europe

Samsung recently announced that they will exit their laptop business in Europe. This includes both Chromebooks and PCs running Windows.

Of course, you don’t usually exit businesses that are doing well. Samsung gave the following reason in their statement;

We quickly adapt to market needs and demands. In Europe, we will be discontinuing sales of laptops including Chromebooks for now. This is specific to the region — and is not necessarily reflective of conditions in other markets. We will continue to thoroughly evaluate market conditions and will make further adjustments to maintain our competitiveness in emerging PC categories.

Essentially they are saying that their laptops are not selling well and Europe, and it doesn’t make sense for them to continue that business there.

This would be understandable if this was driven mainly by lackluster sales of Windows PCs. IDC has predicted that worldwide PC shipments will decrease by -3.7% in 2014. However, Samsung in not strong in this segment. The segment where Samsung is strong is in Chromebooks. Although Acer has recently been reported to have edged out Samsung, it is still a strong second with an estimated 24% market share of Chromebooks shipments. This segment, unlike the Windows PC segment, is predicted to show very strong growth in 2014. The fact that Samsung is exiting the European market not only for Windows PCs, but also for Chromebooks, suggests that at least in Europe, Chromebooks may be struggling.

Most news coverage on Chromebooks come from the US and as usual, both Google and Samsung are very quite about actual sales. Most analysts tell us that Chromebooks are selling well in a single niche market, that is US education, and hence it is not a surprise that Chromebooks do not yet have much traction in Europe. However, they seem to be a bit more optimistic on the prospects long term.

However, the news from Samsung suggest that they do not expect Chromebooks to catch on in Europe, at least not in the mid-term (3-5 years), which would be the minimal window for which such a drastic action would make sense.

Of course, this makes a lot of sense. Although I do not have any figures, I strongly suspect that the amount of money that US schools spend on technology vastly outweighs what other countries, even developed nations spend. Hence it is very unlikely that the single niche that Chromebooks has found success in (US K-12 education) even exists outside the US.