A global slowdown in laptop sales is linked in a new report from market research firm Trendforce with rising vaccination rates and a corresponding decline in remote working and learning. According to the findings, demand for Chromebooks has fallen more than 50 percent in a month since July. And notebook shipments for the rest of the year are expected to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and changing business demand.
Trendforce said interest in laptops with ChromeOS in the past year has been driven primarily 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 has slowed recently.
After being a “primary driver” of total laptop shipments in the first half of 2021, Chromebook shipments fell more than 50 percent for a month in the second half of the year. And because Chromebooks represent a “relatively high proportion” of HP and Samsung’s total laptop shipments, OEM shipments are predicted to drop 10 to 20 percent from the first half of the year to the second half.
Still, it’s not all downhill from here for Chromebooks — Trendforce still expects a total of 36 million devices to ship by 2021.
“The US FCC released the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which totals $7.17 billion, in July to facilitate the purchase of such equipment as notebooks, tablets and network connectivity devices by schools and libraries,” Trendforce said. “This fund is likely to support demand for Chromebooks in the coming year.”
Overall, Trendforce expects laptop shipments to grow by 16.4 percent year-on-year in 2021 for a total of 240 million systems.
Q4 in question
At best, fourth-quarter deliveries will match third-quarter numbers, Trendforce predicted. But one downside of the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter is that the latter’s numbers were helped by laptop brands rushing to deliver shipments early in the fourth quarter to avoid port traffic. The return of employees to offices in North America and Europe is fueling demand, but the researcher isn’t sure whether the commercial laptop trend will be as strong in the fourth quarter as it was in the third quarter.
If commercial demand continues to rise, Dell should be happy, as it sees a larger market share of its commercial laptops than “any other brand,” according to Trendforce. The research firm expects Dell’s commercial laptop shipments to grow 20 percent from H1 to H2.
Laptop shipments in the fourth quarter are also expected to get a boost from people upgrading to enjoy things like Intel’s next-gen CPUs or Windows 11, which debuts next week (though, remember, you don’t need to buy a new PC to upgrade to Windows 11). However, the final numbers will also be affected by where the world is with the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the while, the laptop supply chain is still stuck with a limited supply of components, including integrated circuits for Wi-Fi modules, USB Type-C power supply and power management. In addition, 14- and 15.6-inch displays with IPS panels and a resolution of 1920×1080 are also limited. The good news is that lower-resolution TN panels in those sizes are starting to meet demand, while 11.6-inch panels are getting cheaper. Trendforce predicted that supply and demand of notebook panels will reach “equilibrium” in the fourth quarter.
Vaccinations should become even more common by 2022, and Trendforce expects laptop shipments to fall 7 to 8 percent year over year to an estimated 220 million units. Even if that trendline points downward, note that this is still an improvement from the 160 million units shipped in 2019 prior to the pandemic.