All through this year, market research news has been very dreary for PCs and PC equipment makers. Tablets often grab headlines for cutting into PC marketshare, but, increasingly, Chromebooks--portable computers based on Google's cloud-centric Chrome OS--are presenting a viable alternative to standard laptops.

Now, hard data is coming in on how various classes of computing hardware fared during the back-to-school period, and Chromebooks are one of the big bright spots. In fact, research from the NPD Group shows that Chromebooks, which didn’t exist in the back-to-school period for 2012, added almost 175,000 units to the market this year and provided all the growth in the challenged notebook market.

“Chromebooks and Windows Touch helped offset what could have been much steeper declines this back-to-school season,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement. “While these results are better than the almost 4 percent decline from the first half of the year, any declines in the crucial back-to-school period leave reason to be concerned for the upcoming holiday season.”

Across all hardware units sold, as tracked by NPD weekly, Chromebooks only represented 3.3 percent of the back-to-school market, but that is up from zero last year.
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--jeremy