Chromebook shipments plunge due to 'shift in demand'

Sales of Chrome OS devices fell 29.8% in the third quarter of 2021 to 6.5 million units, according to IDC

Chromebook and tablet shipments have fallen for the first time since the start of the pandemic, research company IDC said today. 

Chromebook shipments fell 29.8% year-on-year in Q3 2021 to 6.5 million units, IDC reported in its “Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker,” while tablet shipments dropped 9.4% to 42.3 million units. 

The main cause for the drop in shipments was a shift in demand. These product categories hit peak demand during the pandemic as people looked for cheap equipment to allow them to work from home. This created a sustained growth period during the pandemic, which analyst company Canalys described as "through the roof" in July. Tablet sales also soared during the pandemic

Now that restrictions are decreasing in many regions and offices are opening, that demand is weakening. 

Supply chain limitations also played a part, according to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC's mobility and consumer device trackers. "The combination of these two factors is likely to create opportunity for PC makers as shared components, production capacity, and freight availability could be shifted to other categories such as Windows notebooks or perhaps gaming PCs, which continue to see higher demand and greater profitability," he said. 

The decline in shipments isn't uniform worldwide. It hit developed markets hardest, but emerging markets are still seeing strong growth. However, their 13% contribution to global shipments won't offset the slide. 

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HP saw the largest decline in the Chromebook business, losing two-thirds of its unit shipments and dropping from first place in sales in Q3 2020 to fourth place in Q3 2021. 

Lenovo took the top spot this quarter, moving up from second place. All vendors lost shipment volumes aside from Samsung, which saw flat year-on-year shipment figures. 

Tablet market rankings remain unchanged since last year. Apple retained the top slot in tablet sales, increasing its market share from 30% to 34.6% this quarter. Samsung, Amazon, Lenovo, and Huawei took second through fifth place respectively. Huawei took the biggest hit on shipments, losing 45.9% of its unit volume. 

These figures come just days after IDC announced shipment declines in the smartphone market, largely fueled by supply chain issues. 

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