The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread economic disruption and forced changes to the way many of us work and learn, but it’s been a boon for Chromebook sales. A new report from TrendForce suggests the good times are coming to an end for those Google-powered laptops. Windows demand should be buoyed by Windows 11’s release, but the report predicts that Chromebook sales will continue to drop through next year.
As the pandemic gained steam in early 2020, many families were forced to quarantine, both working and learning from home. For any household without enough computers, Chromebooks were the perfect option. While Chrome OS doesn’t have as many features or software options as Windows, they’re cheap and work just fine for accessing web content and services. The pandemic is far from over, but market dynamics are beginning to change. Chromebook demand saw a substantial decrease over the summer, dropping 50 percent in July. Samsung and HP, both of which have a large number of Chromebooks in their portfolios, have felt the brunt of the dip. TrendForce expects a 10-20 percent drop there.
TrendForce points the finger squarely at increasing vaccination rates in North America, Europe, and Japan. As more people get the jab, they’re returning to offices and schools — in many US jurisdictions, there has also been a concerted push to get grade school kids back into classrooms, regardless of the potential impact on the spread of COVID-19. As people return to some semblance of normal, Chromebooks are sitting on the shelves longer.
It’s uncertain what will happen in the last quarter of the year — if the pandemic worsens again, at-home work and school could prop up Chromebooks. Plus, the FCC released the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund over the summer, which will fund the purchase of computers, tablets, and network equipment by schools and libraries. That could help to prop up sales throughout the remainder of the year.
In a best-case scenario, laptop shipments in Q4 could remain steady from Q3, but regardless, 2022 is expected to drop further. TrendForce expects a 7.3 percent drop in laptop shipments next year as the pandemic continues to abate. That’s still around 220 million units, which is several times higher than the 60 million units sold in 2019 before the pandemic.
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