Acer Chromebook As Mac Alternative

Acer's Chromebook designs are looking more interesting by the day. Credit: Acer.

On Wednesday, on the advice of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Genius at my local store, I wiped my Mac's hard drive clean and started over. This is the second time in less than two years that I've "reinvented" my system in this way. There won't be a third time.

To be fair, I've put this four-year-old machine through its paces. Internal fans would whine as I'd work with dozens of open tabs while running multiple scripts. A supplemental external fan helped, but the processing eventually came to be too much for the logic board, which Apple replaced in 2012.

Cloud storage rescued me this go around as it did last time, which has me wondering if my next Mac ought to be a Chromebook.

Breakdown... go ahead, give it to me
Diligent readers will point out that I said the opposite last year. Back then, I was using Samsung's original 500 series Chromebook while I waited for a repair. Think of it as a digital spare tire: good enough for the emergency situation I was in, yet unsuitable for long-term use.

What's changed in the 19 months since? Cheap Chromebooks are performing almost as if they were laptop computers. Schools and businesses are buying more of them as a result. In May, NPD was reporting that 25% of all low-cost laptops sold in the U.S.were Chromebooks. Longer term, Gartner estimates that Chromebook sales will jump 79%, to 5.2 million units this year, and then go on to nearly triple -- to 14.4 million units by 2017.

This can't be too surprising. A growing number of us are getting our computing needs met from software delivered via the cloud. For example, most of what I do boils down to writing, editing, and recording and publishing audio and video. Nearly all of it I have socked away in a 1 TB Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG) Drive account, which is fortunate. After restoring my Mac to life, I downloaded the app for Google Drive, and synced the 20,000 or so files I have online back to the Mac. Nothing was lost.

Billions of dollars are betting against me
Of course, Drive isn't the only option for safely storing data online. Microsoft has its own cloud storage service, as do Box, Dropbox, and, of course, Apple. The Mac maker's newly enhanced iCloud service offers users up to 5 GB of free storage. Those who want more can choose to pay $0.99 a month for 20 GB, $3.99 for 200 GB, $9.99 for 500 GB, and $19.99 for 1 TB. For the record, I pay Google $9.99 a month.

And I'll keep doing so. No matter how good iCloud becomes, it's still a Mac-centric product that works best with OS X, which means upgrading to a newer Mac loaded with more native software. Why risk more erasing and reinstalling when so much of what I do is cloud-centric?

Even so, we should be clear that Apple appears to be in no danger of losing its core. Millions of us around the world are buying new Macs each quarter:

Quarter
Macs sold
YoY Growth
Mac revenue
YoY Growth

Fiscal Q4

5.52 million

21%

$6,625 million

18%

Fiscal Q3

4.413 million

18%

$5,540 million

13%

Fiscal Q2

4.136 million

5%

$5,519 million

1%

Fiscal Q1

4.837 million

19%

$6,395 million

16%

Source: Apple investor relations.

Perhaps we'll see many more quarters of growth. As an investor in Apple stock, I certainly hope so. It's just tough to envision, when the newest Chromebooks can give me much of what I need for a fraction of the price. I can't be alone.

Or am I? Leave a comment to below to let us know what you think about the newest Macs and Chromebooks, and where you stand when it comes to Apple stock.

Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Apple and Google (A and C class) at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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