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Chromebook sales in recession: Market saturation blamed as shipments collapse more than 63% in Q4

PC makers ditch Google OS portables for higher-margin Windows machines as component shortages linger

Chromebook shipments collapsed in calendar Q4 as the channel – with an eye on market saturation – ordered in lower volumes and PC makers moved available components to higher-margin builds running on Windows.

Unit sales into distributors and retailers plunged 63.6 per cent globally to 4.8 million Chromebooks, says IDC. This is the second quarter in a row that sales of the skinny portables have shrunk.

"Much of the initial demand for Chromebooks has been satiated in primary markets like the US and Europe and this has led to a slowdown in overall shipments," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC.

"Supply has also been unusually tight for Chromebooks as component shortages have led vendors to prioritise Windows machines due to their higher price tags, further suppressing Chromebook shipments on a global scale."

Q4 was a bloodbath for all brands: market leader Acer reported shipments of 1.3 million Chromebooks, down 43.3 per cent, followed by Dell with 1 million, down 63.6 per cent. Lenovo shipped 200,000, down 73.5 per cent, and Samsung shipped 600,000, down 22.4 per cent.

HP, previously the biggest seller of Chromies, shipped just 500,000 in the quarter, down 86.7 per cent from the 3.5 million models it shipped a year ago. HP was caught out caught out by crashing demand in the summer during the Back To School season and might have inventory still swilling around.

According to HP CEO Enrique Lores, talking on a conference call in November to discuss its Q4 of fiscal 2021 ended October, the company steered the product mix and margin to PCs with higher average sales prices.

"We have been very effectively managing both, driving the components that we have toward the categories where we saw the highest value for the company, which in general [includes] the commercial categories and the high end of the consumer side."

The Others segment, the collection of also-rans that didn't break into the top five, was down 31.8 per cent to 700,000 units, said IDC.

Despite the relative collapse in the second half of 2021 Chromebook, shipments for the whole year were still positive, growing 13.5 per cent to 37 million. HP led the pack with 10.2 million units, up 9.3 per cent, Lenovo grew 23.4 per cent to 8.3 million, Acer grew 4.6 per cent to 6.4 million, Dell declined 5.2 per cent to 5.4 million, and Samsung was up 77.2 per cent to 3.2 million. Others was up 19.5 per cent to 3.4 million.

Chromebook shipments fell in calendar Q3 for the first time since their debut in 2011, and now a drop for the second consecutive quarter suggests the market may have reached its 10-year peak.

The Chromebook boom is over. The US had traditionally accounted for the vast majority of sales – around 70 per cent – and that market is nearing saturation, a year after Microsoft launched its own Chromebook killer. ®

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