In context: We already knew the PC market had been growing fast in the last few quarters, with demand remaining strong and chip shortages threatening supply. According to the latest figures from Strategy Analytics, laptops are a big part of that surge, and Chromebooks in particular have seen unprecedented growth.
The sudden shift to working and studying from home contributed to the largest rebound of the PC market in a decade, and greatly improved the bottom line of manufacturers, who are now struggling to meet demand. Laptops sales have been so high that they've also revealed a weakness in the supply chain, as earlier this year companies like Lenovo warned that their stock is running dry.
Despite the ongoing global shortage of chips, including for $1 display driver chips and other essential components for laptops, the first quarter of 2021 saw no less than 37.8 million units shipped around the world to consumers and businesses.
That's an 81 percent year-over-year growth. It's also higher than the overall PC market surge of 55 percent year-over-year.
Strategy Analytics director Eric Smith notes that manufacturers were able to fulfill large laptop orders even before their expected delivery date. This is an interesting observation, given that some cryptocurrency miners have been panic buying RTX Ampere laptops to get around the GPU shortage, while schools all over the world have been snapping up Chromebooks at an unprecedented rate.
Lenovo retains the top spot in terms of units shipped, almost doubling the sales it recorded in the same quarter last year. The company sold over 16 million laptops, growing its market share to just a hair under 24 percent. HP and Dell took the following two spots with 15.4 million units and 10 million units, respectively, but the latter saw a smaller year-over-year increase of 37 percent, while its share of the overall notebook market has decreased from 19.2 percent to 14.6 over the last 12 months.
Apple has also been gaining ground, shipping an estimated 5.7 million units in the three months ending in March. The Cupertino company reported record Mac revenue for that time period of $9.1 billion. If the 5.7 million unit figure is accurate that comes down to an average selling price of almost $1,600 per Mac.
Chromebook sales grew 174 percent year-over-year and totaled 12.1 million units, outpacing all other laptops. It remains to be seen if that trend is indicative of a long-term change, but it looks like HP may be the biggest winner of the surge in Chromebook demand as over a third of all units bear its logo.