Pandemic Drives Chromebook Sales ‘Through The Roof’

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Remote education sees massive surge in Chromebook shipments, while tablets finish 2020 on a high as users look for ways to stay connected

The PC industry saw a surge in shipments in the fourth quarter of last year, largely driven by tablets and Chromebooks brought in to deal with coronavirus-related restrictions.

Demand for Chromebooks, in particular, went “through the roof” during the period as education systems turned to easy-to-deploy devices for remote learning, according to Canalys.

“Google’s digital offerings for education are proving quite popular over rival platforms, especially in the US and Western Europe,” said Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi.

He said Chromebook demand was likely to persist into 2021 as governments in many countries push for a 1:1 device-to-student ratio.

Affordability

The devices also racked up sales outside of education for affordable business or personal computing, Doshi said

The Chromebook market nearly quadrupled in size compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, with HP the top seller at 3.5 million units, up 235 percent year-on-year.

Lenovo was second with 2.8 million units in the quarter, a massive ramp-up of 1766 percent, followed by Acer and Dell.

Chromebooks hit a record of 11.2 million units for the fourth quarter, up 287 percent year-on-year for a total of 30.6 million for 2020.

PC sales surge

The worldwide PC market, including tablets, shipped 143.7 million units in the fourth quarter, a third consecutive quatrer of growth and 35 percent up year-on-year.

Total shipments for the year grew 17 percent over 2019 to 458.2 million units, the highest volume since 2015.

Demand for tablets notably boosted overall sales, as users found themselves reliant on flexible devices to stay connected in a variety of use-cases during the pandemic, Canalys said.

Lenovo led the market, with shipments of 28.8 million for the quarter and 87 million for the year, followed closely by Apple with 26.4 million Macs and iPads for the fourth quarter and 81.4 million for the full year.

HP, Dell and Samsung made up the rest of the top 5, with each showing double-digit growth year-on-year in the fourth quarter.

Tablets

Tablet shipments hit an all-time high of 52.8 million units in the fourth quarter and 160.6 million for full-year 2020, up 28 percent over 2019 and constituting more than one-third of all PC sales.

Apple’s iPad dominated the tablet market with fourth-quarter sales up 40 percent to 19.2 million, its best iPad figures since the fourth quarter of 2014, followed by Samsung with 9.9 million tablets, up 41 percent year-on-year.

Amazon rose to third place with 6.5 million tablets, followed by Lenovo, while Huawei was the only vendor in the top 5 to see shipments decline year-on-year.

The momentum in tablet sales shows how reliant users have become on staying connected across different form factors, said Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt.

Versatility

“Their versatility across, not just different form factors and price points, but also connectivity options, make them an ideal device across a variety of use-cases, from simple slates for e-learning and content consumption all the way to high-performance detachables for productivity users who are adapting to spending a larger proportion of time at home,” Dutt said.

“Moving forward, tablets will be a crucial element of vendors’ PC portfolios and vendors like Apple and Samsung that prioritised the category as others exited will find themselves in an enviable position,” he added.

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