Chromebooks are problematic for profits and planet, says Lenovo exec

Also: India's PC ban didn't take into account needs of ecosystem

CANALYS APAC FORUMS Lenovo won't stop making Chromebooks despite the machines scoring poorly when it comes to both sustainability and revenue, according to an exec speaking at Canalys APAC Forum in Bangkok on Wednesday.

"I don't know who makes the profit," commented Che Min Tu, Lenovo senior vice president and group operations officer. "Everybody struggled to sell the Chromebook."

Tu further remarked that the laptop is not great from an environmental standpoint either – recycling its material won't be easy, or cheap.

"But I think we'll continue to sell the Chromebook because there's a demand," explained Tu, who added that the major driver of that demand is coming from the education sector.

While the number of Chromebooks being sold has dropped since the pandemic, the education market has kept it afloat. In the US, education accounted for 80 percent of Chromebook sales in Q2 this year.

IDC estimated that Q2 Chromebook channel sales shrank 1.8 percent to 5.8 million units in that quarter as many customers had refreshed in the previous quarter to avoid a licensing increase in the second half of 2023.

Tu said Lenovo was benefitting from its "China plus one" supply chain policy and was continuing to enhance its local manufacturing capability in India.

Lenovo's sub-continental expansion could have easily gone wrong had India not paused a requirement that banned PC and server vendors who do not secure an import license.

The policy was intended to boost homemade tech and its "Made In India" campaign, but instead generated a backlash from manufacturers.

The Indian government issued Lenovo, and around 110 other firms, licenses around the start of November.

"I think they delayed because they realized there are a lot of local elements needed in order to enable the local manufacturers to see what's going on right now in terms of assembly. You need to bring an entire ecosystem. Lenovo's secret is in its supply chain," commented the veep.

At Canalys EMEA Forum 2023 this October, another Lenovo vice president pledged the world would see AI PCs in the second half of next year and early 2025.

According to Tu, the first Arm AI PCs will appear from mid next year, although AI PCs in general are still years away while the enabling ecosystem around them grows.

Although the definition of an AI PC remains in flux, the veep explained that Lenovo's vision is that "AI is able to bring a digital twin to support you in your daily life," meaning "certain process capability is required."

Lenovo's vision of a PC digital twin does not eliminate the need for a smartphone, according to the exec. He predicted the phone and its innovations, including foldable devices, will become "very, very important – especially in the AI PC era." ®

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