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PC shipments decline 2% in Q3 — but numbers still ahead of pre-pandemic levels

Fri 5 Nov 2021

All regions except Asia Pacific have recorded a year-over-year fall in worldwide PC shipments, according to new data from Canalys.

Global shipments of PCs, including tablets, fell by 2% to 122.1 million units, Canalys confirmed — but shipments remain well above pre-pandemic levels. When compared to Q3 2019, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) totalled 10%.

Chromebooks suffered the steepest decline at 37% year-over-year, reaching 5.8 million units in Q3 2021 — which the data analyst said was primarily due to a spending slowdown in the education sector in the US. 

Meanwhile, tablet shipments fell by 15% year-over-year to 37.7 million units. Despite this dropoff in shipments, volumes shipped were still above pre-pandemic levels. With 15.2 million iPads shipped, Apple maintained its lead in the rankings, with a flat year-on-year performance. Samsung came in second despite a 20% decline, shipping 7.2 million units in the third quarter. Lenovo, which maintained its momentum, was the only vendor in the top five to see modest growth, with 4.2 million units shipped, up 2% year on year. Amazon and Huawei made up the rest of the top five, with significant falls of 45% and 51%, respectively. 

“Despite the end of its stellar growth streak, the tablet market remains strong, considering the long period of declines that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Canalys analyst Himani Mukka. 

“After five consecutive growth quarters, all regions except Asia Pacific suffered a fall in shipments. In most of the world, demand from consumers and to support basic education functions for younger children has slowed compared to the height of the pandemic. 

“But due to the large device penetration gap in APAC and the region’s preference for tablets as a learning tool, demand is expected to persist until early next year.”

Lenovo led the pack in the total PC market (which includes desktops, notebooks and tablets) with 24.4 million units shipped and a market share growth of over 1%. Apple’s total shipments hit 23 million units, and experienced a modest growth of 5% for total shipments. HP felt the impact of supply constraints, with a 6% decline in annual shipments. In fourth place, Dell saw a stellar 27% increase in shipments and a nearly 3% increase in market share. Samsung completed the top five, as it did in Q2 2021. 

Mukka notes 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,” says Mukka.

“Beyond the consumer space, commercial deployments of tablets will be an important aspect of the accelerated digital transformation that businesses undertake as economic recoveries, new workstyles and 5G deployments get underway.” 

The research found that Q3 was not a particularly good quarter for Chromebooks. The Chromebook market saw shipments fall 37% year-over-year, and 52% quarter-over-quarter. Canalys says this is likely due to the education sectors in major markets, like the US and Japan, reaching saturation point and experiencing a slowdown in public funding.

But, like the market overall, the Chromebook market is still far ahead of pre-pandemic numbers.

“Chrome’s focus on the education market meant it was bound to slow down at some point,” says Canalys research analyst Brian Lynch. 

“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. 

“Still, Chrome has massively expanded its user base over the past year and a half and will have far more refresh opportunity due to that growth. Google has also made a significant investment in the enterprise market this year as it attempts to broaden its horizons beyond its secure position in the education space,” says Lynch.

“While this domain presents a much harder challenge for Chrome, it will be able to lean on its economy, security and ease of management to carve out a niche.”

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