Enhancing the user experience in the fast-growing Chromebook market

Mar 15, 2021

By Saleel Awsare

The pandemic lockdown has had far-reaching ramifications across all aspects of our lives, including how we work and learn. WFH has become a catch-all acronym to describe any kind of remote or hybrid working model, as businesses and workers attempt to replicate the in-office experience. Meanwhile, students of all ages have been forced to log-in from home and access new types of learning platforms and experiences. 

This trend has caused a surge in the need to equip ourselves with the gear to work and learn collaboratively from a distance, in non-office environments, and in an on-the-go fashion (even if we returning to the office or classroom periodically now). Chief among those requirements is a portable and flexible computing platform that provides connectivity and supports the productivity tools we need. 

When the lockdown hit, people scrambled to outfit their homes with a workspace that lets them continue working and learning, often leaving their more permanent set-up at the office or school. As result laptop and notebook sales flourished (along with necessary peripherals like monitors and docking devices). 

Chromebook makes it a viable 3 horse race 
The need to acquire a second PC for the home or to give every student their own device has given the Chromebook segment of the PC market a boost. Long dominated by Mac OS and Windows machines, the market landscape shifted a bit in 2020 as people looked to the cost and ease-of-use advantages of the Chromebook option. 

Chromebook expansionAccording to Canalys Research, Chromebook shipments reached 11.2 million units in Q4 2020, a 287% increase over Q4 2019. Chromebook 2020 full-year shipments reached nearly 31 million units. “Outside of education, there has also been mounting interest from consumers and traditional commercial customers in seeking out Chromebooks to ensure affordable continuity of business or personal computing,” said Canalys Research Director, Rushabh Doshi. 

There is even a bit of a Trojan Horse effect going on: Since many students’ first experience is now with the Chromebook, and there is already a widespread familiarity with the compatible Android OS ecosystem thanks to its success in browsers, search, mobile and gaming, this could bode well for sustained growth for the Chromebook franchise from a new generation of laptop users and they are more likely to continue to use Chromebooks as they get older. 

Chromebook makers respond with appealing devices to enhance the UX 
The Chromebook ecosystem has responded and upped its game with new models of laptops that rival those in other segments but are oftentimes a fraction of the cost. Their focus has largely been bringing the overall design and user experience up to par with Mac and Windows options, with features such as effortless security, including user authentication and data security, and streamlined industrial designs to maximize the use of surface area and enhance end-user productivity. 

Synaptics has long been a leader in various aspects of PC usability, and we are expanding that franchise into the Chromebook world. A particular area of expertise for Synaptics is the ubiquitous TouchPad, which we actually helped invent, and has been a mainstay in laptops for generations of models. 

Building on that market strength, we recently announced new Chromebook-specific TouchPad modules. The sensor area in our latest offering is 17 percent larger than previous generations and enhanced with updated TypeGuard algorithms for palm rejection while typing. 

The TouchPad module delivers smoothness and sensitivity, enhanced by true pressure measurement. It offers all customary mouse functions: mousing, tapping, dragging, and scrolling. The module's tough, moisture, and grime-resistant surface can be even used in wet or dirty environments. 

Our unique Accidental Contact Mitigation (ACM) technology called TypeGuard is a set of software algorithms that helps reduce false inputs that might occur during the use of a laptop. Palm rejection while typing is one of the biggest annoyances for users that are frequently writing on their notebooks and TypeGuard nearly completely removes false cursor movements, taps and scrolls. In past research, we have seen that this technology can result in a 73% decrease in false movements. 

With Touchpads like this new larger version becoming more prominent on the laptop surface, palm contact is much more likely, so preventing these kinds of accidental inputs is crucial to providing a good experience for the consumer. 

Add on a Synaptics enabled fingerprint sensor, whether integrated on the Chromebook itself or via a dongle or dock and users are ensured effortless security.
The pandemic has brought on many new dynamics to how people use technology and device makers are responding. Synaptics is now providing new best-in-class options for OEMs looking to design differentiated next-generation Chromebooks, and for users who want the highest quality, productivity and experience – regardless of where they are using their devices.



Saleel Awsare
Senior Vice President and General Manager, PC & Peripherals Division