Growth Reboot for PCs As Chromebooks Shine

Global personal computer (PC) shipments fell 3.3% on a year earlier in the second quarter, according to estimates from IDC. The U.S. was characterized as doing slightly better, driven by sales of Chromebooks for the educational market. That conclusion is borne out by trade data, but may prove somewhat pessimistic.


Imports of all PC types increased 13.7% in May to 11.23 million units, Panjiva data shows. Shipments of laptop computers expanded most quickly, rising 16.0%, led by a 52.0% rise in shipments from Vietnam. The average value per laptop fell 4.6%,  confirming the trend towards lower-end models (including Chromebooks). Meanwhile seaborne imports in June indicate that total U.S. imports of all PC types increased 5.0% on a year earlier in the second quarter to 32.0 million units. That compares to a 4.4% decline in the first quarter.



Data through August based on imports via all routes, lower chart shows total units through April, seaborne shipments only for June Source: Panjiva


Among the major manufacturers Dell performed best, with first quarter import shipments rising 13.2% on a year earlier. That compares to a 3.5% decline in the first quarter, and suggests a recovery in demand for its Chromebook 11 and 13 models. HP Inc saw the opposite trend, with a 24.1% drop in imports in the second quarter compared to a first quarter rise of 6.1%. Its higher price-point for Chromebooks may have been a factor here. Acer was the worst performed among the branded producers with a 25.5% drop after a weak June. Outsourced manufacturer Compal increased imports by 104%, partly driven by its production for Dell.



Chart shows imports of laptop, all-in-one, stand-alone and servers qualified by company name. Values shown on a three-month rolling basis SourcePanjiva


The pattern of improving shipments may be seen globally, at least for Chinese factories, suggesting the downturn seen by IDC may reverse. Total Chinese exports of PCs increased 9.2% on a year earlier in May, including an unusual spike in shipments of desktop machines (107%). Commercial-sector demand appears to be robust, with server shipments rising 19.2%. Laptops meanwhile rose just 3.7%, suggesting the U.S. was the only market seeing significant growth.



Chart segments Chinese computer exports by system type SourcePanjiva


Compal’s experience in its Chinese operations reflected the “U.S. best” trend too, with its global exports of laptops rising 20.6% in the three months to May 31 vs. the more-than-doubling seen in its U.S.-bound shipments. That still puts Compal well behind number one manufacturer Quanta, which grew by just 2.9% over the same period. The fastest growing manufacturer was Wistron, which is still only second tier but expanded exports by 65.7% in dollar terms.



Chart segments Chinese computer exports by manufacturer SourcePanjiva




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