The excitement surrounding netbooks is long gone, with every major manufacturer walking away from the market in favour of higher-margin products and people opting for tablets or more powerful ultra-slim laptops instead. But there’s still room for laptops in the low budget marketplace, and one unlikely player is slowly but surely gaining traction: the Linux-based, cloud-centric Google Chromebook.

According to data from NPD, the devices have snagged 20 percent to 25 percent of the sub-$300 market in the US. Although that’s not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, it’s at the very least noteworthy given that they are now the fastest-growing segment of the PC industry based on price.

Introduced in 2011, Chromebooks represented a major paradigm shift that ditched traditional desktop applications for web-based services. But their initial $350 - $430 price range made them a hard sell against Windows machines. Although Microsoft is still far from losing the throne, Google has been winning over customers by iterating with better hardware, lower prices, and expanded retail availability. NPD also notes that Chromebooks allow much more off-line activity now through a series of updates to Chrome OS.

Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung are all selling Chromebooks through nearly 7,000 retail outlets including Best Buy, Fry's, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Walmart, Amazon and Tiger Direct.

Google even began selling its own branded model earlier this year, though with a starting price of $1,300, the Chromebook Pixel is more of an experiment than anything else. The device features a 12.85 inch 2560×1700 touch screen, Core i5 CPU, a 32GB or 64GB SSD and 1TB of storage on Google Drive for three years.