Google's Android mobile operating system (OS) may be the most popular software in the world for powering phones and tablets, but its Chrome OS was found on only 3.5 percent of all laptops sold worldwide in 2014. According to research firm IDC, computers running Microsoft's Windows software, the market leader, accounted for 86 percent of laptops sold, while Apple's MacBook notebooks had an 8.7 percent share.
But Chrome OS devices have gotten much better traction in the education market in the United States. In 2014, Chromebooks accounted for about one third of the education market with a 29.9 percent share. Windows still had the majority with 39 percent, while Apple had 32 percent, according to IDC.
However, Google is now making a determined bid to push Chrome OS on to more laptops and desktop computers. The search giant recently announced the Asus Chromebit, a small device that looks like an oversize flash drive that turns any screen or monitor with an HDMI video port into a full-blown computer. With the Chromebit, you can connect to a Wi-Fi network and run Google's Chrome browser, check Gmail and watch YouTube, all through Google's Chrome operating system. The device, which is set for release this summer, will sell for less than $100, Google said.
Google has good reason to tout Chrome OS. The software is the entry point to people using more Google apps and services. The more information the company can glean from users, the more potential revenue it can make from showing them targeted ads, which marketers deem the most valuable.
The Chromebit could be used to replace the aging computer in your living room — all you need is the monitor, Internet connection, keyboard and mouse you already have. Or, schools could use the Chromebit to revamp an old computer lab. The device has a USB port at one end and can connect to other accessories via the Bluetooth standard for connecting wireless devices.
Google has been hard at work trying to get emerging markets connected to the Internet. Last September, it announced Android One, an initiative aimed at getting high-quality, low-cost Android phones to developing populations. The project has already launched in countries including India and the Philippines. The company has also experimented with satellites and balloons to beam Internet connectivity to rural places, instead of building cell towers on the ground.