Chip shortages could hit Chromebooks harder than Windows laptops – report

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The ongoing global chip shortage is impacting everything from PS5 stock to smartphone production, but it appears that when it comes to laptops, Chromebooks could be hit harder than Windows devices.

That’s according to the analysts at IDC who told The Register that manufacturers are prioritising Windows machines over Chromebooks, despite no let up in demand – and it’s all down to the relative margins on each.

“For Chromebook, while still in high demand and even on backlog for many education deals, vendors have started prioritising higher margin Windows laptops given the ongoing component shortages,” the analyst is quoted as saying.

Putting some numbers to that demand, IDC said that five million more Chromebooks were shifted in Q2 2021 than in the same period last year, which is really quite something considering that covered the first coronavirus lockdown, when remote learning tools were in extraordinarily high demand. That represents year-on-year growth of 68.6%, although the analyst noted that this still represented a slowing down overall.

But if there’s a choice to be made between Windows PCs and low-margin Chromebooks, then it seems likely that the manufacturers will go with the former every time. “Currently there is not enough supply to keep up with the robust demand, and the resurgence of COVID in Southeast Asia is creating additional pressures on our supply chain,” HP CEO Enrique Lores said in May.

He went on to add that Chromebooks, which made up 20% of the company’s Q2 2021 portfolio, were “having some impact in the [average sales] pricing on the PC side, because Chromebooks overall have lower prices than the rest of the PC portfolio.”

Assuming IDC’s grim prediction of production slowing does come to pass, it couldn’t come at a worse time for Chromebook. The laptops not only have to contend with Apple’s M1 powered MacBooks, but the imminent arrival of Windows 11 perhaps stoking interest in traditional PCs.

Or, as IDC analyst Brian Lynch put it: “The PC OS race is set to be the most hotly contested it has been in a long time.”

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