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Tablet shipments slump on market saturation and chip shortage

A perfect storm of macro trends in Q3 spelled joy for those who love hackneyed clichés but misery for Chromebook and tablet makers.

According to new figures from IDC, shipments in both these categories fell for the first time since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in early 2020. Chromebook volume slumped 29.8 percent year-on-year to 6.5 million units, while tablet volume fell 9.4 percent to 42.3 million.

Lenovo led the Chromebook market in Q3 with shipments of 1.5 million, still down 10 percent on Q3 last year. It is followed by Acer and Dell, which shipped 1.4 million and 1.2 million respectively. HP ranks fourth, which is interesting if only because it was the market leader this time 12 months ago. In the third quarter of 2020, HP shipped 3.2 million Chromebooks, but this year volume slumped 66.1 percent to 1.1 million.

“Many schools and governments blew out their budgets to provide devices for remote learning and even consumers aggressively purchased devices for learning in 2020. As a result, some saturation in the education market is expected in the near term,” said Anuroopa Nataraj, senior research analyst, IDC mobility and consumer device trackers. “This directly impacts Chromebooks and even tablets to some extent, especially in developed markets such as the US and Western Europe, due to high volumes in the preceding quarters.”

Indeed and with schools open again, there perhaps isn’t the same clamour for Chromebooks as there was previously. Some of the demand could also have been driven by home workers, but now that many people are beginning to return to the office, that source of demand could be ebbing away too.

In addition, lockdown meant discretionary spending was channelled more towards consumer products that could be used at home. Now that things are opening up again, more of that cash is likely being spent on holidays, hobbies and other recreational activities.

In the tablet market, Apple increased its lead, shipping 14.7 million iPads during the three months to 30 September, up from 14 million a year earlier. Second-placed Samsung did not fare so well: it shipped 7.5 million tablets, down from 8.4 million 12 months ago. Amazon sits third on 4.7 million, while Lenovo and Huawei complete the top five with shipments of 4.3 million and 2.3 million respectively.

IDC reckons tablet demand during the pandemic was fuelled by their inherent versatility, comparatively lower selling price, and component shortages in the PC market. However, the aforementioned easing of restrictions is diverting cash back to other categories again.

Furthermore, supply chain issues are now directly affecting the tablet market as well. Nikkei Asia reported on Tuesday that, according to multiple sources, Apple has cut back sharply on iPad production so it can channel components to the iPhone 13 instead.

Apple expects iPhone 13 demand to peak towards Christmas and so to avoid running out of stock, iPads will have to make way. In fact, Nikkei’s sources claim iPad production has been reduced by 50 percent compared to Apple’s original plans.

If you want to wake up to an iPad in your stocking this year, you better write your letter to Santa sharpish.


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