In a nutshell: Although shipment levels remain above pre-pandemic levels, worldwide PC sales -- including tablets -- have fallen by two percent year on year to 122.1 million units. Due to a reduction in education spending, Google's Chromebook division is one of the worst impacted categories.
According to Canalys, despite the slight dip in sales in Q3 2021, global shipments in the PC industry are comfortably ahead of pre-Covid levels, with a two-year CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 10 percent compared to Q3 2019.
However, sales for tablets and Chromebooks didn't fare as well. Both segments experienced a decrease following several successive growth quarters. Tablet shipments fell 15 percent year on year to 37.7 million units, while Chromebooks were subject to an even sharper decline, with sales down 37 percent (52 percent quarter on quarter), culminating in overall Chromebook shipments reaching 5.8 million units during the third quarter.
Canalys suggested tablet shipments dropped simply as a result of declining consumer and education use cases in many regions. Meanwhile, a slowdown in education spending in the US, in addition to students returning to in-class learning, caused the downturn for Chromebook demand.
That said, Canalys noted that Chrome has significantly expanded its user base over the past year and a half, and therefore will have "far more refresh opportunity due to that growth." They also highlighted Google's sizable investment in the enterprise market in 2021 as the search giant "attempts to broaden its horizons beyond its secure position in the education space."
Lenovo maintained its lead in the PC industry, while increasing its market share by more than one percent, shipping 24.4 million units. Apple followed behind in second place with a growth rate of five percent, resulting in total shipments of 23 million units for its Mac and iPad series.
HP absorbed the brunt of the impact in regards to supply constraints via a six percent decline in annual shipments. In fourth place, Dell managed to avoid bottlenecked supply chains with a 27 percent increase in shipments, contributing to a nearly three percent rise in market share. Samsung rounded out the top five.
Unsurprisingly, 2020 marked the highest growth rate for PC shipments in 10 years, primarily caused by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. While performance in that market may further decline moving forward, worldwide sales for gaming PCs in particular is expected to grow at an accelerated rate, with the upward trend predicted to continue for the next few years to 2025.