Are Chromebooks Losing Market Share in the Sub-$300 Notebook Segment?

Yesterday I wrote about an NPD report that came out for back-to-school PC sales in 2014.

In that report, Chromebook sales were reported to account for 18 percent of all sales of notebooks under $300.

This sounds like good news if you don’t remember what NPD was telling us a year ago. Stephen Baker, NPD’s Vice President of Industry Analysis for Consumer Technology, said the following;

In the last eight months Chromebooks have snagged 20 percent to 25 percent of the U.S. market for laptops that cost less than $300.

If Chromebooks sales have truly fallen from 20-25% market share to 18% market share in the sub-$300 laptop segment, that’s pretty bad news for them. Not that it’s particularly good news for Microsoft either.

Back-to-School PC Sales 2014

NPD published their report for US consumer retail PC sales during the 10 week back-to-school period yesterday.

スクリーンショット 2014 09 25 8 07 49

U.S. consumer retail PC sales grew almost 3 percent during the 10 week Back-to-School period (week of July 4th through Labor Day week) after declining by 2.5 percent in the previous year.

So it seems like PC sales aren’t falling too badly and have actually risen a bit. Mac sales are continuing to be quite strong. Chrome OS has made some gains but not nearly as impressive as compared to 2012-13.

As I have repeatedly said in this blog, what I find interesting is how Microsoft is retaliating to Chromebooks.

Chromebook sales were up 32 percent in 2014 and accounted for more than 5 percent of notebook sales, and 18 percent of all sales of notebooks under $300. Windows notebook ASPs fell over the last three weeks to just $441, which was 8 percent lower than last year, but the price cuts lifted units by 4 percent. Entry-level Windows Notebooks priced under $300 increased by 37 percent as prices dropped from $271 to $242. 2-in-One Windows devices accounted for 13 percent of Windows sales as volume increased 6x over 2013.

What we see is that low-cost Windows notebooks that are price-competitive with Chromebooks are increasing sales in line with the rise in Chromebook sales (37 percent vs. 32 percent). Hence it appears that although Chromebooks sales are up 32 percent, the market share of Chromebooks within the notebooks-under-$300 segment is not increasing. What is happening is that the notebooks-under-$300 segment expanded 30%, and both Chrome OS and Windows machines increased their sales at the same rate within this segment.

Simply put, Chromebooks are not gaining market share relative to Windows notebooks in the sub-$300 segment. What’s happening is that the sub-$300 segment is rising 30%.

Within this segment, Chromebooks have 18% market share whereas Windows has the remainder. To eventually win over Windows, Chromebooks has to be growing much more rapidly. The possibility that Chromebook share is not rising at all in this segment is a huge red flag.

Looking at the big picture, Microsoft has simply made the typical response that an incumbent would make when faced with low-end disruption. Microsoft’s software business is very much fixed-cost, and hence they tend to fiercely guard market share at the expense of margins. They have also made similar responses in the past.

Nothing new here, but still interesting to see this play out according to theory.

Can China Develop a Successful Operating System

Reuters reported that China is developing a homegrown operating system.

This is not the first time they have done this. However this time, they have a much better chance;

  1. China’s worries about the U.S. owning computing technology have largely been justified by the the revelations by Edward Snowden.
  2. China now is much more powerful in the computing scene. They manufacture most of the world’s smartphones.
  3. Chinese Internet companies have grown to the extent that they make a Google-less Internet a reality in China. Although they have yet to expand to other countries, China has demonstrated that they can develop viable alternatives to the most powerful Internet company.
  4. The dominance of Microsoft Windows has waned. In China, the majority of PCs ran Windows but only pirated versions of Windows XP. Now that Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP, China’s PC OS situation is up for grabs. This is even more so given that China has recently banned Windows 8 for government use.
  5. Although I don’t have hard data, it seems that the software industry in China is quite vibrant. There are many titles for both Android and iOS developed inside China. I suspect that there is quite a bit of software talent in China.

This time around, the Chinese OS seems to have a fair chance.

It’s obvious that this will be a Linux based system.

Thoughts from WWDC 2014

Some of my random thoughts from the WWDC2014 announcements.

Spotlight search moving away from Google

There has been quite a bit of discussion that Apple may be gradually moving away from Google, even on Search. This is evidenced by Spotlight using Bing for searches instead of Google.

I actually take a different view. I am starting to think that Google search has overshot mainstream demands and is actually vulnerable to low-end disruption. What I mean is that for most of the time, when people are doing Google searches, they don’t really require the full power of Google. Instead, what they want to do is to find the meaning of a word from Wikipedia, a location from Maps, something in the news, restaurant information or information about a song or an application. They don’t really need a search engine that knows everything that is on the net, including random blogs. What they need is information from a handful of distinct services.

Google itself acknowledges this. Search for “sushi” on Google and they will give you a map of sushi restaurants nearby and an entry from Wikipedia. Search for “Masahiro Tanaka” and Google will give you an entry from Wikipedia and a link to news searches. Google realizes that people are not looking for random sushi information, no matter how relevant it may be to the “sushi” keyword. Instead the majority of users are using Google as a gateway to Wikipedia, maps and news.

For these users, a search engine that simply listed Wikipedia entries or directly looked up maps would be more convenient than using the full Google search engine.

Hence my position is that Spotlight is less about replacing Google with Bing, and is much more about directly showing Wikipedia entries, etc. Google is facing the possibility of low-end disruption on search.

iCloud Drive

It is becoming increasingly obvious that some elements of the Cloud are starting to be commoditized. iCloud Drive is a prime example of this. We have DropBox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive. We even have open-sourced clones like ownDrive. DropBox, which used to be a prime example of how the cloud is becoming so convenient and important, is now almost completely commoditized. It will be very difficult for even DropBox to differentiate itself from the rest.

Windows compatibility

iCloud Drive will be available for Windows but not for Android. This clearly show what Apple thinks of Android. Apple views Windows as a necessary evil. They realize they cannot ignore Windows because it is so dominant in both the consumer and corporate spaces.

On the other hand, Apple considers Android users as people who made the wrong choice by mistake. Apple thinks that if Android users regain their sanity, they will move towards iPhone.

Seriously, if you consider the few most likely multi-OS situations and think through how Apple would like each consumer to behave in the future, you can see the rationale behind Apple’s decision.

For example, Windows PC and iPhone/iPad users are completely covered by Apple’s commitment to iTunes on Windows and iCloud Drive. There is clear multi-device support there, although limited because Apple can not directly modify Windows.

Also, you won’t find many Mac users who decided to use Android smartphones, so it’s meaningless to cater to these users.

There will be many Windows PC users who also have Android phones. Apple isn’t able to target these users with iCloud until they buy at least one Apple device, but that’s another strategy.

Now the main issue is with Windows PC users who own an iPad and an Android phone. Given the market share of each device category, there are quite a lot of users in this segment. Now iPad and Windows will work well together, at least as well as how Windows and Android will work. Given the rapid replacement cycle of smartphones and the dominance of Windows, it makes sense for Apple to try to convert the Android phone to iPhone rather than to convert the Windows PC to a Mac. To achieve this, Apple should work on getting the iPad to work better with Windows, at least better how Android. They should try to make Android the odd-man-out. This isn’t a difficult task given how Google doesn’t like collaborating with Microsoft.

So my view is that Apple is being very sensible in supporting Windows in their multi-device strategy and not supporting Android.

PC and Tablets Sales to U.S. K-12

The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Chromebooks Take Other Mobile PCs to School” which cited estimates of laptop and tablet sales to U.S. K-12 schools.

This compares to data that was released from the NPD group late last year. The NPD group data was for PC (desktop and laptop) and tablet sales through “U.S. commercial channels” (sales through VAR that are mostly targeted towards education, government and corporations). I have previously commented on the NPD data on this blog (1, 2, 3).

The NPD Group data and following discussions pointed to the following;

  1. Chromebooks are mostly selling to education.
  2. Chromebooks are competing with iPads or expanding the market. They are not taking the market from Windows.
  3. The NPD data is for computers sold to schools through VARs, not to students. The computers are strictly the property of the schools and hence purchase is not an end-user decision. In Steve Jobs’ words, these are sales through “orifices”.

Here I would like to take a look at the FutureSource data that the WSJ cites to better understand the picture.


The FutureSource data seems to confirm the following;

  1. Chromebooks are indeed selling well to education.
  2. iPads are currently extremely strong in education. Much more so than Windows. It is understandable that the main battleground is iPad vs. Chromebooks and not Windows vs. Chromebooks.

Additionally, it seems that Android tablets are non-existent in schools.

As for the comments in the WSJ article that are in favor of the Chromebooks, they are interestingly from the school IT departments: the “orifices”.

One fan is Kyle Laauser, the information technology director at Saint Joseph Academy,

Explaining the purchase, Mr. Laauser pointed to the devices’ low price, $279 each including a $30 setup fee paid to Google, as well as the ease with which he could set them up for the entire student body.

All in all, the WSJ article seems to be in good agreement with the NPD data and the ensuing discussions.

Tablets and Laptops are Used for Different Things

There is a lot of talk about tablets replacing PCs (desktop and laptops). The people who make this point usually cite the decline of PC sales which coincided with the rise of tablets.

I have always been rather skeptical of this view because for me, laptops and tablets served very different roles. It’s not that I program therefore I need a laptop kind of thing. It’s that for any kind of work that I do in my office, a laptop is more convenient. On the other hand, when I am on my sofa playing with kids, then a tablet is much better.

The general tendency is to segment by people; i.e. power users who do a lot of stuff vs. casual users who mainly just do email and a bit of the web. I think this is the wrong approach.

The correct approach is to segment by the jobs-to-be-done. Hence even for a single person, he is sure to have multiple jobs-to-be-done in the course of a day. Some of these are better suited for a laptop and some are suited for a tablet. Or they may be an old lady who just wants to see photos of her grandchildren. A tablet would be ideal for her. Since this discussion is about form factors, the posture is also very important; are you at your desk, are you standing, are you reclining on the sofa, are you lying down on bed, or are you crouching in the toilet.

In March 2013, Chitika published data that showed when people used their respective devices to surf the web during the day.

  1. Smartphones dip during working hours, but are still used during work hours, especially during commute hours.
  2. Tablets are used a lot less during working hours and are mainly used for leisure.
  3. PCs usage peaks during working hours and also during leisure hours.




From the charts above, it is evident that tablets usage is not replicating PC usage. Although there is likely to be some overlap, it is clear that they are being hired for different jobs-to-be-done.

According to a recent interview between Apple executives Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi and MacWorld, Apple seems to think the same way.

“It’s not an either/or,” Schiller said. “It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all…. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Sometimes you want a large display, with many different windows open, and sometimes you just want to lay back on the couch or are standing at the bus stop. There’s a natural form factor that drives the optimal experience for each of those things. And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.”


2013年10月22日のアップルイベントで新しいMacbookやiPadが発表されました。新しいMac OS XのMavericksやiWork, iLifeも発表されました。



これは結構大きい話です。今までもMacOS Xの価格は非常に安く、Microsoft Windowsよりもずっと手頃でした。例えばMountain LionはUS$19.99でした。初代MacOS X 10.0のCheetahはUS$129で、これも当時のWindowsと比較して廉価でしたが、手頃ではありませんでした。MacOS X 10.4 TigerはUS$129.95。この価格設定はMacOS X 10.5 Leopardまで続き、MacOS X 10.6 Snow Leopardで一気にUS$29になりました。MacOS X LionではいったんUS$69に上がりますが、MacOS X Mountain Lionでは再び下がってUS$19.99になります。




  1. ユーザは最新の機能を利用することができ、満足度が上がる。
  2. 新しいOSには開発者にとって便利な機能(API)がたくさん用意されており、より簡単により高度なアプリケーションが開発できる。
  3. 古いOSを使用する人が減れば、開発者は古いOSをサポートする必要が無く、負担が大きく減る。その上、積極的に新しいOSの機能が活用できる。


まとめると、短期的な収益を犠牲にしてでもOSを無料にする理由は、今後も積極的にMacOS Xに新しい機能をつけていくからです。逆にもしiPadを優先し、MacOS Xを収束させていこうと考えているのであれば、OSを無料にすることは戦略的には矛盾します。むしろMacOS Xユーザから最大限に利益を絞りだそうとするはずです(milking)。

なおGoogleの場合はビジネスモデルが違うので、GoogleがOSを無料化する理由は全く違います。GoogleがOSを無料にすることと、GoogleがOSのイノベーションにコミットするのは全く独立の話です。Googleの場合は、OSを有償にする選択肢がありません。Chrome OSは無料にしないと誰も使ってくれないのです。

iWork, iLifeが無料になった


ただこれは同時にGoogle Docsにとって、ちょっとやっかいな話です。

Google Docsの戦略は基本的にはこうです。

  1. パソコンのユーザはMicrosoft Officeを使っていることが非常に多い。
  2. Microsoft Officeを使う代わりにウェブで同じ作業をしてくれれば、そこにGoogleの広告を掲載することが可能になる。これがGoogle Docs。
  3. Google広告を掲載することにより、Google Docsは無料にできる。
  4. 非常に機能が多いMicrosoft Officeに完全に対応するのは無理なので、Google DocsはMicrosoft Officeの簡略版にとどめる。つまり機能は落ちるけど、無料だからいいやというローエンド製品。

GoogleはAndroidにしてもGoogle Docsにしても、Google Driveにしても、あるいは古くはGoogle Readerでもそうでしたが、普通だと有料なものを無料で提供することによって利用者を増やすと戦略をとります。


そして今回のiWork, iLifeが無料になったというのがなぜ衝撃かというと、Googleよりも安価なコンペティターが出現したからです。しかも品質的にも高級ブランドイメージ的にもGoogleを圧倒しています。

iWork, iLifeにはうっとうしい広告もありません。









ウェブアプリのフレームワークとして、今最もホットなRuby on Railsの開発者David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH)がブログに“Watching Apple win the world”をブログに書き込んでいました。




あるときは「世界で一番優れた製品を作」っている会社が勝ち、そしてあるときはMicrosoft Windows 95のように、極論するとコピー商品と言えるものが勝つ。どうしてでしょう。


私がClayton Christensen氏の理論を元に考えていることは、ちょうどiPadが発売された直後に書いたブログ記事に紹介しています。


自分の結論を言うとイノベーションが盛んに起こっている市場ではAppleのやり方が勝ちます。そしてイノベーションが衰退した市場ではWindows 95が勝ちます。


Appleがイノベーションを起こせなくなったとき、自分自身を捨てる勇気がなくなったときが、Appleがまた衰退するときです。なぜならAppleは自社の主力製品をも潰しかねない破壊的イノベーションを続けることで、Christensen氏の言うInnovator’s Dillemaを辛うじて逃れているだけだからです。


iBooks Textbooksがあるとき、授業は何をすればいいの?

Life on EarthiBooks Textbooksを見て、昔から疑問に思っていることを再び考えています。



iBooks Textbooksの見本で日本で唯一ダウンロード可能な“Life on Earth”を見ると、「これさえしっかり読めば授業はいらないよね」って思わずにはいられません。おもしろいから退屈せずに最後まで読めるし、高解像度の写真や動画、インタラクティブなウィジェットがふんだんに使われています。書いてある内容が理解できずに苦しむと言うことはあまりなさそうです。

日本に多い授業の形式、つまり黒板があって、そして40人が全員前を向いて先生が話をするという授業形態で果たして”Life on Earth”を超えた授業はできるでしょうか。”Life on Earth”以上の説明を黒板と口頭で果たしてできるでしょうか。あるいは話題の電子黒板を使ったとしても、iBooks Textbooks以上のマルチメディア体験を生徒に与えることができるでしょうか。

僕は無理だと思います。”Life on Earth”を見ると、「事実を伝える」という目的に限って言えば、授業という形式でこれを超えることはできないと思います。


今回のiBooks Textbooksの話、僕が小学校の頃にイギリスの現地校で受けた授業、そしていままで好きだった先生の教え方を思い返しながら、僕が理想とする近未来の授業の姿を描いてみたいと思います。

  1. 黒板に書かれた板書を生徒が書き写すようなことはやめるべきです。
  2. 生徒は自分で考えてノートをとるようにさせます。何をノートに書くべきか、どういう形で整理するかは生徒に自分で考えさせます。
  3. 教科書を読み上げるというのはやりません。それぐらいなら授業の最初の15分間ぐらいみんなに教科書を各自で読ませた方が良いです。人それぞれに考えるペースがりますし、本を自分のペースで読むのと、読み上げられた音声を聞くのとでは頭に入る効率は全然違います。iBooks Textbooksみたいなインタラクティブなものは特に読み上げるだけではもったいです。
  4. 自分で主体的に勉強させます。問題集をやらせるのも良いのですが、せっかく学校にいるのであれば何か課題を与えるとか、作文をやらせるとかした方がおもしろいと思います。
  5. 自分の考えを発表する練習をさせます。どんなにすぐれた電子教科書があっても、自分の考えを発表する練習はそれだけではできません。
  6. 以下にマルチメディアでインタラクティブであっても、実際の物理的な体験は重要です。実験をするとか、外に出て観察するとか、そういうことをさせることが重要です。




iBooks Textbooksでイノベーションについて考える

Daring FireballのJohn Gruber氏もこの記事と同じようなことを述べています。“On the Proprietary Nature of the iBooks Author File Format”

It’s the difference between “What’s the best we can do within the constraints of the current ePub spec?” versus “What’s the best we can do given the constraints of our engineering talent?” — the difference between going as fast as the W3C standards body permits versus going as fast as Apple is capable.

NewImage2012年1月18日に行われた Apple Education Eventで iBooks Textbooksが発表されました。詳しくはAppleのウェブサイトにありますので、ご覧ください。


さてiBooks Textbooksに対する批判の多くは、iPad版しか無いこと、そしてiBooks Textbooks用の電子教科書を作成するにはMacを使わなければ無いことに問題視しているようです。



当然ながら今回でiBooks Textbooksは始まったばかりで、今後新しい機能はどんどん追加されます。それに応じてファイル形式も変更されていくでしょう。新しい機能が自由に追加できるのは、このファイル形式をApple社が完全にコントロールしているからこそです。例えばePub形式とかHTML5のような業界標準のファイル形式を採用してしまうと、これらで表現しきれない機能をiBooks Textbooksに追加できなくなってしまいます。つまりイノベーションの自由度が下がってしまうのです。

もし電子教科書はePubの機能で十分であり(つまり静的なコンテンツで十分と考えている)、iBooks Textbooksのイノベーションには価値がないと考えているのなら、業界スタンダードのePubを使えば良いわけで、これならAndroidでも読めます。

もしインタラクティブなコンテンツがとても作りやすくなっているiBooks Textbooksのイノベーションがとても重要で、これからもイノベーションを続けてもらいたいのならば、当面はApple社のシステムを取り込むしかありません。イノベーションが速いペースで進むためには、垂直統合はやむを得ません。