IDC At Google I/O: Chromebook Sales Outstrip Mac Sales For The First Time

Chromebook sales have edged out Mac sales for the first time, research firm IDC said this week at Google I/O.

While IDC didn't release specific numbers for Chromebooks, it said around 1.76 million Macs were sold in the first quarter.

"It doesn’t surprise me," said Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider. Monteros said Chromebooks are finding success in the education vertical despite the sluggish PC market.

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"Chromebooks and Macs are two different animals," Monteros said. "If you look at Macbooks, they compete with the Windows platform, while the Chrome platform is more browser-based compute for vertical applications, like education."

Sigmanet, which sells both Macs and Chromebooks, saw an increase in demand for Chromebooks about a year ago in the education vertical, Monteros said.

Chromebooks are known to be popular in the education market, thanks to the devices' low price and easy-to-use, browser-based model.

Chromebooks range in price from the $250 Dell Chromebook 11 to the $280 HP Chromebook 11 G4. Meanwhile, the cheapest product in Apple's Mac lineup -- the 11-inch MacBook Air -- starts at $900.

Google is placing more investment in Chromebooks, announcing at Google I/O this week that Chrome OS devices will soon get Google Play, meaning that Chromebook users can download Android apps.

The education vertical represents a small spark of popularity in the slow PC market, which saw declining shipments in the first quarter, according to IDC.

While PC shipments fell 5.8 percent, to 13.6 million units, in the first quarter, IDC analysts point to education and corporate sales as a potential strength in the second quarter.

"Demand for PCs in the U.S. remains sluggish," said Linn Huang, IDC research director for devices and displays. "However, we should be entering a period of reprieve. Peak corporate and education buying seasons have historically started in the second quarter. With some IT buyers thinking about early Windows 10 transitions and with the potential continued ascent of Chromebooks in U.S. K-12, the PC market should experience a modest rebound in the coming months."