Chances are that if you shopped for a cheap holiday PC on Amazon for the holidays, what you ended up buying was a Google Chromebook. Again.
Amazon said Friday the top three computers it sold between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25 were all Chromebooks, a first for the Google-powered computer. (Two of the three most popular computers Amazon shoppers bought during the 2013 holiday season were also Chromebooks—the third being a Windows-powered Asus Transformer. Amazon didn’t break out holiday computer sales for 2012.)
Amazon said the three most popular computer items were the Acer C720 Chromebook (11.6-inch, 2GB); the Asus (C300) Chromebook 13-inch with Gigabit WiFi (16GB, 2GB), an update to the C200; and the HP 11-2010nr 11.6-inch Chromebook (Snow White). None of those are priced at higher than $250, at least on Amazon’s site.
This trend isn't just about Chromebooks vs. Windows PCs, though. It's also about what shoppers want to pay for a laptop these days: less than $300. Amazon publishes a list of its top sellers on an hourly basis, and at press time the top three sellers were Windows PCs—take that, Chromebooks! However, they all cost about $260 or less, including the $200 HP Stream, expected to be one of the most popular low-cost PCs this holiday season. Only one of the top ten notebooks cost more than $300.
Why this matters: PCWorld has tracked the Chromebook’s ascent: passing the iPad as the computer of choice for U.S. schools; topping 35 percent of all commercial laptop sales between January and May 2014, and winning the back-to-school race, too. Microsoft has pushed to get sub-$300 laptops on the streets, but cheap Windows PCs remain sparse.
Our "World Beyond Windows" columnist, Chris Hoffman, offers his own reasons why Chromebooks have succeeded, including increased support from hardware makers, support for Photoshop and Skype, and more. But the bottom line is this: Even with bundles that include a year’s subscription of Office 365, gift cards, and the like, consumers are familiar enough with Chrome and the Chrome OS to buy them for their relatives. And that’s going to leave Microsoft sleepless in Seattle (okay, Redmond) over New Year’s.
Other Amazon holiday highlights
The other clear winner in Amazon’s holiday sales was GoPro, which also captured the top three products in the camera category: the GoPro Headstrap Mount + Quick Clip, the GoPro HERO4 Silver, and the accessories Kit for the GoPro Hero4. Samsung captured the top two spots in the TV category, with its 32-inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV and 40-inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV topping the LG Electronics 42-inch 1080p 60Hz LED TV. And, of course, everyone needed cables, so the top three accessories were all Amazon-branded HDMI cables.
As for video games, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Just Dance 2015, and Super Smash Bros. rang up the most sales, according to Amazon.
Updated at 11:56 AM with a definition of what the holiday sales period entailed, as defined by Amazon.