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Chromebooks on “massive downturn” from pandemic-fueled heights

Chromebooks on “massive downturn” from pandemic-fueled heights

 November 3, 2021 at 7:19 am   |     Author:   |     Technology  

Chromebooks on “massive downturn” from pandemic-fueled heights

Although PCs are still selling at a greater volume than before the COVID-19 pandemic, demand is starting to drop. In Q3 2021, shipments of laptops, desktops, and tablets dropped 2 percent compared to Q3 2020, according to numbers that researcher Canalys shared on Monday. Interest in Chromebooks dropped the most, with a reported decline as high as 36.9 percent. Demand for tablets also fell, showing a 15 percent year-on-year decline, according to Canalys.

Chromebooks’ “massive downturn”

Both Canalys and the IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker shared Q3 numbers for Chromebooks and tablets on Monday. Canalys said 5.8 million Chromebooks shipped globally during this time, while the IDC said the number was 6.5 million. Both pointed to a huge decline compared to Q3 2020. Canalys reported the drop at 36.9 percent, and IDC pegged it at 29.8 percent.

Canalys said that Q3 Chromebook sales took a “major downturn” as the education markets in the US, Japan, and elsewhere became saturated. Demand lessened as government programs supporting remote learning went away, the research group said. After reaching a high of 18 percent market share since the start of 2020, Chromebooks reportedly represented just 9 percent of laptop shipments in Q3 2021.

IDC also said that easing pandemic restrictions across the globe are leading to more money being allocated outside of Chromebooks and tablets. Analysts agree that after a period of growth during the height of the pandemic, the rise of Chromebooks is coming to a halt. Canalys and IDC’s analysis corresponds with recent findings from Trendforce, another analyst, which pointed to growing vaccination rates and a drop in remote education and work as hurting Chromebook demand in the second half of 2021, when in one month, shipments dropped 50 percent, year on year.

“Governments, education institutions, and households have invested heavily in Chromebooks for more than a year, and with so many students equipped with devices and schools returning to in-class learning, shipment volumes have fallen accordingly,” Canalys research analyst Brian Lynch said in a statement.

IDC echoed the sentiment, with Anuroopa Nataraj, senior research analyst with IDC’s Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, noting that many schools and governments have already “[blown] out their budgets” for remote learning, “and even [though] consumers aggressively purchased devices for learning in 2020,” they have purchased fewer in 2021.

Canalys has hope, however, that the US demand will come back, thanks to the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7 billion program dedicated to remote learning and more school-funded purchases in the first half of 2022. Chrome OS has also established a larger user base, which points to a greater potential refresh opportunity, Lynch noted.

According to Canalys, HP is no longer the top Chromebook seller. HP’s Q3 Chromebook shipments declined more than any other vendor (66.1 percent), leading to Lenovo taking the top spot.

HP saw the steepest decline at 66.1 percent.
Enlarge / HP saw the steepest decline at 66.1 percent.

IDC sees things a bit differently. While it also recorded a 66.1 percent drop in HP Chromebook sales year over  year, IDC marks the company as the fourth-largest Chromebook seller, behind not just Lenovo but Acer and Dell, too.

iPads and Lenovo tablet sales grow despite market decline

Until Q3 2021, tablets had seen five consecutive quarters of growth but saw a 15 percent year-on-year drop in Q3, per Canalys, or a 9.4 percent fall per IDC. 

Canalys' take on the tablet market.
Enlarge / Canalys’ take on the tablet market.
IDC's take on the tablet market.
Enlarge / IDC’s take on the tablet market.

Don’t feel too bad for tablet makers. Some companies are still selling more than before the pandemic, according to Canalys. Apple, which represents 34.6 or 40.4 percent of the tablet market, depending on which analyst’s numbers you prefer, shipped about 15 million iPads in Q3. According to Canalys, that’s flat growth, but IDC pegs Apple as growing 4.6 percent over Q3 2020.

And Lenovo, which Canalys says has the third-greatest market share (or the fourth, according to the IDC), sold about 2 percent more tablets in Q3 2021 than in the same quarter last year. Both analysts reported that Samsung’s and Amazon’s tablet businesses saw the most decline in the US.

Canalys analyst Himani Mukka described the tablet market as “strong.”

“It’s also worth noting that despite the long refresh cycles for tablets, the installed base has ballooned over the last 18 months. Even if many choose not to upgrade their tablets in the coming years, shipment volumes are set to be elevated above what was expected prior to 2020,” Mukka said. The analyst added that business needs around 5G and new approaches to working and improving economies will fuel tablet demand.

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