Demand for Chromebooks is falling because the pandemic subsides
Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2020 with a 4K OLED display.
A global slowdown in laptop sales is linked to rising vaccination rates and a corresponding decline in remote working and learning in a new report from market research firm Trendforce. According to the results, demand for Chromebooks has fallen by over 50 percent in one month since July. And notebook shipments are expected to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and changing business demand for the remainder of the year.
Trendforce said that interest in ChromeOS-powered laptops over the past year has been mostly driven by distance learning. The analyst pointed to rising vaccination rates in North America, Europe and Japan in the second half of 2021, as demand for Chromebooks last slowed.
After Chromebook shipments were a “main driver” of total laptop shipments in the first half of 2021, they fell by over 50 percent in the second half of the year. And since Chromebooks make up a “relatively high proportion” of total laptop shipments from HP and Samsung, shipments from OEMs are expected to decrease by 10 to 20 percent from the first to the second half of the year.
For Chromebooks, things don’t just go downhill from here – Trendforce continues to expect a total of 36 million devices to be shipped in 2021.
“The US FCC released the $ 7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund in July to make it easier for schools and libraries to purchase equipment such as notebooks, tablets and network connection devices,” said Trendforce. “This fund will likely support demand for Chromebooks over the next year.”
This year, 240 million laptops are expected to be shipped.
Overall, Trendforce assumes that shipments of laptops in 2021 will increase by 16.4 percent compared to the previous year, for a total of 240 million systems.
At best, deliveries in the fourth quarter will match the figures for the third quarter, Trendforce forecast. One downside of the fourth quarter versus the third quarter, however, is that the latter’s numbers have been helped by laptop brands rushing to ship fourth quarter shipments early to avoid port traffic. The return of workers to offices in North America and Europe is fueling demand, but the researcher isn’t sure if the trend towards commercial laptops will be as strong in the fourth quarter as it was in the third quarter.
If commercial demand continues to move higher, Dell should be happy as it sees a higher market share from its commercial laptops than “any other brand,” according to Trendforce. The research company expects shipments of commercial laptops from Dell to grow by 20 percent from H1 to H2.
Laptop shipments are also expected to rise in the fourth quarter due to the upgrades to enjoy things like Intel’s next-gen CPUs or Windows 11 debuting next week (though keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a new PC to upgrade to Windows11). However, the final numbers will also be affected by where the world is with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the laptop supply chain is still blocked by a limited inventory of components, including integrated circuits for Wi-Fi modules, USB Type-C power, and power management. In addition, 14- and 15.6-inch screens with IPS panels and a resolution of 1920 × 1080 are also limited. The good news is that lower resolution TN panels in these sizes are meeting demand while 11.6-inch panels are getting cheaper. Trendforce predicted that the supply and demand for notebook panels will “equilibrate” in the fourth quarter.
Vaccinations are likely to be even more widespread in 2022, and Trendforce predicts laptop shipments will decline 7 to 8 percent year-over-year to an estimated 220 million units. While this trendline is pointing down, it’s still an improvement over the 160 million units shipped in 2019 before the pandemic.