The 2014 holiday season wasn't the best for technology companies. According to MasterCard, holiday-related spending on consumer electronics, which includes laptops, tablets, and game consoles, was basically flat, falling well short of strong expectations.
Apple's mobile devices dominate Christmas
Apple's mobile devices proved to be particularly popular Christmas gifts this year, likely outselling competitors' products by a wide margin. According to Flurry, Apple-made smartphones and tablets represented 51% of the mobile devices activated worldwide from Dec. 19-Dec. 25.
Apple's largest competitor, Samsung, came in a distant second: Less than 18% of the devices activated around Christmas were manufactured by the South Korean conglomerate. Nokia was in third, at less than 6%. No other manufacturer broke above 2%.
While this is not a perfect gauge of Apple's business (particularly because the Christmas holiday is not observed in many parts of the world), it suggests the company's devices are selling quite well.
Google's Chromebooks come out on top -- again
Many of the best-selling laptops this holiday season were powered by Google's Internet-based operating system, Chrome OS. According to Amazon, Acer's C720 Chromebook, Asus' 13-inch Chromebook, and Hewlett-Packard's 11.6-inch Chromebook were the top-three selling laptop models on its website this holiday shopping season.
Chrome OS' share of the larger PC market remains relatively small -- in the low single-digits -- and Amazon is just one retailer (albeit a significant one). But the strong showing is further proof that Google's operating system is building momentum. This is the second consecutive year Chromebooks have dominated Amazon's laptop charts, and the first year that Microsoft has targeted them in earnest. The HP Stream notebook, a Windows-powered, $199 potential Chromebook killer, was available for purchase, yet it couldn't topple the Chromebook triumvirate.
Amazon Prime program adds another 10 million members
Unfortunately for investors, Amazon does not disclose how many Prime subscribers it has. In the past, it has acknowledged only that its Prime subscribers number in the "tens of millions." In September, RBC analyst Mark Mahaney estimated Amazon had roughly 50 million Prime subscribers globally, but it is impossible to say for certain.
Whatever amount Amazon had then, it now has at least 10 million more: the company said it added that number of Prime subscribers over the holiday shopping period. Did all 10 million of these Prime members actually pay for the service? Or were some simply taking advantage of a free trial period to shop for a few gifts? Unsurprisingly, Amazon didn't say.
Regardless, this is a strong showing, and if many of those 10 million stick around, Amazon could have millions more paying Prime subscribers in 2015. Perhaps more importantly, it could have millions more dedicated customers.