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Chromebooks fighting for mind share at PC makers with higher-margin Windows 11 machines in the lead, says IDC

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PC makers are starting to prioritise production lines in favour of more profitable Windows PCs at the expense of Chromebooks, or so warns IDC.

The analyst recently finished totting up preliminary shipments for calendar Q2, showing sales growth of hardware running on Google's Chrome OS starting to slow but still coming in at an impressive 12.3 million units globally.

According to the figures, this means that vendors shipped 5 million more Chromebooks than the same period in 2020 when government lockdowns made PCs, particularly relatively low-cost ones, must-have items at home. This equates to growth of 68.6 per cent

Despite the positive shipment data, IDC noted this was a slowdown on recent quarters, including the 357 per cent rise recorded in Q1 and the buying frenzy that made Chromebooks a bigger seller than Apple's Mac in 2020.

"For Chromebook, while still in high demand and even on backlog for many education deals, vendors have started prioritising higher margin Windows laptops given the ongoing component shortages," the analyst said.

Not every vendor caught the Chromebook wave in Q2: HP leapfrogged Lenovo into the top spot with sales of 4.3 million, up 115.7 per cent, while its Chinese rival grew 81.2 per cent. Acer shipped 1.9 million units, up just 21.7 per cent, and Dell sent 1.8 million Chromebooks into the channel. Fifth-placed Samsung recorded 900,000 units, up from 600,000 units a year ago.

PC component shortages in the past year mostly included memory and notebook panel driver ICs, and Lenovo, the world's biggest computer maker, said last autumn it could have shipped 30-40 per cent more product had it not been for supply chain restrictions on production.

HP boss Enrique Lores said in May he expects these shortages to linger for "at least" the remainder of 2021. "Currently there is not enough supply to keep up with the robust demand, and the resurgence of COVID in Southeast Asia is creating additional pressures on our supply chain," he said.

Chromebooks comprised 20 per cent of HP's portfolio in its Q2 of fiscal '21, and Lores admitted the addition of these machines in the overall mix was "having some impact in the [average sales] pricing on the PC side, because Chromebooks overall have lower prices than the rest of the PC portfolio."

According to Canalys, global Chromebook shipments jumped 75 per cent in calendar Q2 to 11.859 million. The researcher said the form factor's place in education has become secure and Google is looking to invest and expand in other verticals.

"Google is set to bet big on the commercial segment this year. We expect to see a strong focus on attracting small businesses with updated services, such as the new 'individual' subscription tier for Google Workspace and promotions on CloudReady licenses to repurpose old PCs for deployment alongside existing Chromebook fleets," said Brian Lynch, research analyst.

"However, with Apple eyeing to expand its M1 success into the commercial space and Microsoft launching Windows 11 later this year, the PC OS race is set to be the most hotly contested it has been in a long time." ®

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