Chromebooks outsold Macs worldwide in 2020

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Google grew by chipping away at Microsoft’s market share.

Last year Google’s Chrome OS replaced macOS as the number 2 most popular operating system, according to a report by market tracker IDC.

According to a report in GeekWire, IDC’s final numbers released this week reveal that 2020 was the first year that Chromebooks outsold Macs, posting impressive market share gains at the expense of Windows.

In previous years, there have been isolated quarters in which computers with Google’s Chrome OS outsold Apple’s products. But 2020 was the first full year in which Chrome OS overtook macOS to take second place. Of course, Microsoft’s Windows still held onto their majority market share, but their numbers slid as both Chrome OS and macOS gained share.

Windows market share drops by 5% in 2020

According to IDC, Windows market share dropped from 85.4% in 2019 to 80.5% in 2020. Meanwhile, Chrome OS market share went up from 6.4% to 10.8% during the same period. Windows still stands head and shoulders over Chrome OS and macOS, but a drop of almost 5% in a year has got to be causing some headaches in Redmond.

This is a big win for Google and a warning for both Apple and Microsoft. It also signals to app and game developers that Chrome OS can no longer be ignored. Frankly, any business that provides a product or service over the internet should be setting aside resources to ensure the Chrome OS experience is comparable to Windows and macOS.

The pandemic is disrupting historic trends

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, PC supply took a hit as Chinese manufacturing slowed. This led to a steep decline in sales. The market rebounded in Q2/2020, however, and remained strong for the rest of the year. This was because (1) supply constraints were addressed and (2) work from home and distance learning drove PC demand from both businesses and consumers.

Until the pandemic, the success of Chrome OS was largely due to U.S. schools. But demand for Chrome in 2020 seems to have expanded beyond that sector of the U.S. PC market. It remains to be seen whether that growth continues as we move on through the pandemic and into a post-COVID environment.