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Chromebook and tablet shipments break records in 2020

A 2020 PC market infographic. (Source: Canalys)
A 2020 PC market infographic. (Source: Canalys)
The latest market research report from Canalys shows that the PC market enjoyed success not seen in years during 2020. It posted shipment volumes not seen since 2015, hitting 143.7 million units (a 35% year-on-year (YoY) increase) in the last quarter (4Q2020). Tablet and Chromebook shipments also saw record increases, with the latter doubling in number compared to 2019.

The Covid-19 pandemic crisis may have wreaked havoc on many industries, but analysis throughout 2020 has indicated that PC manufacture and sales were not one of them. Now, Canalys has released its final-quarter and full-year report, which appears to confirm this state of affairs.

It shows that PC shipments for the whole of 2020 hit 458.2 million units, breaking the previous record set in 2015 and growing by 17% year on year. The market was led by Lenovo, with 87 million units shipped for the whole year and 28 million in 4Q2020. Apple came a close second with 81.4 million and 26.4 million respectively, whereas HP, Dell and Samsung rounded out the top 5.

This new PC market report also incorporated tablets and Chromebooks, which are normally very much afterthoughts in terms of volume and market share. However, these two categories had a relatively amazing year.

The tablet sector, led (somewhat unsurprisingly) by Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Amazon and Lenovo in that order, shipped 160 million units and grew by 28% YoY. It was likely boosted by demand created by ongoing in-place living and working situations and, judging by its 4Q2020 performance (52 million units shipped and a 54% YoY growth), unusually high popularity as holiday gifts.

Similarly, Canalys holds forth that Chromebooks became crucial in 2020 as parents and educators reached for the path of least resistance to effective remote teaching tools - which, as Google has been working extensively on the same, is a major draw for the sector.

It saw 30 million units shipped in 2020, compared to 14.7 million in 2019. 11.2 million of those shipments came from 4Q2020, compared to no more than 2.9 million in 4Q2019.

HP was the overall leader among Chromebook manufacturers, with a 31% market share, shipments of 9.4 million and a YoY growth of 83%. However, Lenovo was also a major success story in this sub-market, rising from a #5 ranking in 2019 (with a 12% share) to #2 last year (with a 22% share).

It posted a YoY growth of 287%, or no less than 1766% in 4Q2020. This was attributed to Lenovo's ability to boost its production to match Chromebook demand in 2020, particularly in its final quarter. Hopefully, it has something left in the tank for 2021, as Canalys now projects their demand will remain high well into this year.

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Deirdre O'Donnell, 2021-01-29 (Update: 2021-01-29)