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It’s not just laptops, as tablets and Chromebooks see huge growth

Canalys has tracked the fortunes of the form factors through a record-breaking 2020

Canalys recently shared numbers showing the stellar performance of the PC market in the last quarter of 2020 and it has followed that up with more details of the strength of the tablet and Chromebook categories.

Earlier this month, the industry watcher shared figures of shipments of desktops, notebooks and workstations, which showed an increase of 25% in Q4 2020 from a year ago to reach a record 90.3 million units.

For the entire year, total PC shipments increased by 11%, hitting 297 million units. This was the highest annual growth since 2010, with notebooks and mobile workstations driving that performance, and shipments of those devices climbing by 40% year on year. Desktops, largely left gathering dust in shuttered offices, were not as popular a format, and over the past year, shipments fell by 20%.

Those numbers omitted tablets and Chromebooks, but these have now come in to show that over Q4, demand helped drive shipments of tablets to a high of 52.8 million units, with a yearly total of 160.6 million units, 28% up on 2019. Chromebooks also set record shipment volumes, hitting 11.2 million units in Q4 2020, a 287% increase over Q4 2019, bringing the full-year 2020 total to 30.6 million units.

“The growth momentum enjoyed by tablets shows just how important easy access to computing power has become in the current time,” said Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt. “Their versatility across not just different form factors and price points, but also connectivity options, makes them an ideal device across a variety of use-cases, from simple slates for e-learning and content consumption all the way to high-performance detachables for productivity users who are adapting to spending a larger proportion of time at home.”

It looks like the market momentum is continuing into this year, with the main hardware vendors doubling down on their commitment to the tablet form factor.

Dutt added: “Vendors like Microsoft, Dell and Lenovo reacted to the renewed interest in detachable tablets with a slew of announcements at CES 2021 focused on bringing better performance and connectivity to devices for an era of greater flexibility in work arrangements. Moving forward, tablets will be a crucial element of vendors’ PC portfolios and vendors like Apple and Samsung, which prioritised the category as others exited, will find themselves in an enviable position.”

When it came to Chromebooks, there was also serious competition between vendors, with HP holding on to top spot with a 235% increase in units shipped in Q4. Lenovo was second with a 1,766% increase in growth in units shipped, with Acer and Dell completing the top four.

“Demand for Chromebooks is through the roof,” said Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi. “With many countries being forced to accelerate their digital education plans in the wake of additional lockdowns, schools and universities are clamouring for easy-to-deploy solutions and Google’s digital offerings for education are proving quite popular over rival platforms, especially in the US and Western Europe.

“With governments in many countries racing towards a much-needed 1:1 device-to-student ratio, Chromebook demand for education is expected to remain strong through 2021. Outside education, there has also been mounting interest from consumers and traditional commercial customers in seeking out Chromebooks to ensure affordable continuity of business for personal computing.”

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