A few years ago, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Chromebooks seemed a bit laughable. Netbooks had largely come and gone, so how were these supposed to be any different? But now Chromebooks pose a growing threat to both Apple and Microsoft, thanks in part to Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) processors.

You can't keep a good chip down
At the Google and Intel Chromebook event this week, the two companies announced more than 20 notebooks powered by Intel chips, set for release later this year. That's a huge jump from just four Intel-powered Chromebooks in 2013. The new notebooks run the gamut of pricing and features, including some with touch capabilities and 11 hours of battery life. Intel also said it's working on creating the first Chromebook to sport a 64-bit Chome operating system, and has plans for an education-focused Chromebook as well. 

But it's not just that Intel is finding its way into more Chromebooks that's the good news for Intel, it's also the fact that Chromebooks are continually expanding their reach. 

Chromebook rising
For example, in 2013 Chromebook commercial channel sales in the U.S. surpassed Apple's MacBooks. That's no joke, the inexpensive notebooks -- designed for mostly online use -- made up 9.6% of U.S. commercial channel PC sales, while Apple took just 1.8%, according to NPD data.

The notebooks have also been a thorn in Apple's side in the education sector. At the beginning of 2012, Chromebooks held just 1% of the education notebook market, but at the beginning of this year that number had jumped to 19%. Apple currently leads with 47%, followed by Microsoft with 28%.

Google made additional steps into education recently when it stopped scanning education emails for display ad purposes and launched Classroom, a forthcoming app for teachers to create and organize student assignments.

Foolish thoughts
Intel powering more Chromebooks is obviously a good thing for the chipmaker. The company has struggled to find its way into mobile devices, and Google's notebooks could be one of the last major waves in the PC industry. Intel's core competency is PC chips, so it's a great fit right now.

For Google investors, the new Chromebook models paired with continual sales growth is a good thing, but won't change much in terms of its bottom line. The company is so massive and Chromebook sales make up a very small part of its revenue. Still, both companies seem to have struck a chord with consumers at a time when Windows notebooks are losing steam.

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Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Intel. It also owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.