Demand for Chromebooks continues to rocket as families seek cheap computers for work and school.
Just over 11 million were shipped in the fourth quarter of last year, for a total of 30.7 million shipped across the year (see chart below). And it's not just Chromebooks that have been selling at pace: in the fourth quarter of 2020, PC shipments reached 143.7 million, up 35% compared to the same period last year, according to analyst firm Canalys. PC shipments grew 17% to a total of 458.2 million units for the year as both business and consumers scrambled to find the tools to work and learn while at home.
Canalys includes tablets in its analysis of PC shipments but also broke out tablet shipments, which hit 52.8 million units in Q4, with Apple iPads accounting for 19.2 million of total tablet shipments, up 41% from a year ago.
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Amazon shipped 6.5 million tablets, while Lenovo shipped 5.6 million of its tablets. Lenovo was the fastest growing, while Huawei experienced a 24% year-on-year decline. The heavily scrutinized Chinese vendor was the only company to see a year-on-year decline in shipments. Overall, the tablet segment saw 54% year-on-year growth.
It's been a difficult few years for Huawei as the US continued to press ally nations to block its 5G network gear and also blocked Huawei from accessing US software, leaving its phones and tablets without core Google Android apps like Gmail and YouTube.
Chromebook shipments were much smaller than tablet shipments and they were led by HP, which shipped 3.5 million Chromebooks in the quarter with 235% year-on-year growth. However, Lenovo saw 1,766% growth in Chromebook shipments compared to last year to reach 2.8 million units.
Lenovo's Chromebook Duet 10-inch tablet was rated by ZDNet sister site CNET as the best Chromebook under $300.
Dell, Acer and Samsung also saw double and triple digit improvements in shipments compared to a year ago, according to Canalys numbers. Chromebook shipments in Q4 were 287% more than they were this time last year.
Worldwide PC shipments including tablets were dominated by Lenovo with 28.8 million units shipped in the fourth quarter. Apple was in second place with 26.4 million units, followed by HP's 19.3 million units, Dell's 15.9 million units, and Samsung's 11.5 million units.
Overall, the PC industry saw shipments rise 35% for the year to 144 million units.
"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 clamoring 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," Doshi said.
"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 or personal computing."
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Chromebooks might be the popular now, but a new challenger is on the way in the shape of Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS - Windows 10X.
Windows 10X is a lighter weight version of Windows that will debut on PCs in 2021. Microsoft hopes it's adopted by frontline workers and people in the education space. Initially, Windows 10X will be for Intel-based computers, but Arm support is expected in the future too.