Twenty-Fourteen isn’t Year of the Chromebook

There are reasons why I am so obnoxiously loud about bad news reporting tactics. NPD innocently kicked off a writ-storm about 2014 being year of the Chromebook. A Dec. 23, 2013, press release observes strong Chromebook commercial channel sales of preconfigured desktop and notebook PCs.

Looks like NPD pulled the PR—I can’t find it—over this whole “year of #chromebook” meme; it’s a blog and press echo chamber that continues to boom. Goddamn, my ears hurt. Even The Register, of which I expect much better, misquotes the NPD press release, too. That 21 percent market share figure refers to commercial U.S. channels only, not the entire market.

I actually had the data a few weeks earlier. Stephen Baker, NPD’s vice president of industry analysis, responded to my sales info request; I included his quotes and data—accurately—in Chromebook Matters.

The irony: No “year of the Mac” stories. By Gartner’s Q4 data released this week, the Mac made terrific gains in the United States while overall PC shipments collapsed. The U.S. PC market declined by 7.5 percent, during the typically best sales quarter of any year, while Apple computer shipments grew by 28.5 percent. The reasons are more complicated than an initial look at the numbers might suggest—scrutiny The Echo Chamber fails to apply to Chromebook.

I love Chromebook, but accurate reporting matters more; there’s no blind passion from me. So far, the computer’s success is mostly restricted to schools. Chromebook has yet to prove that it won’t be a passing fad, like the netbook, which also got great pick up in the education market, I might add. Here in San Diego, the city school system recently replaced the fleet of netbooks with iPads—more than 25,000.

There is an underlying problem so rarely identified about Chrome OS: Most of the web apps are free. Developers rightly tend to create software or services for platforms from which they can make money, raising questions about what long-term incentives do developers have to continue creating apps or to maintain them.

Whether or not sales climb, I don’t agree with The Echo Chamber’s insistence that 2014 will be year of the Chromebook. No credible analyst data shows meaningful install base. Shout loud and long enough, you may convince yourself and others. Public opinion doesn’t reality make.