According to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research, 163 million notebook personal computers (PCs) shipped globally during 2015. The majority of shipments were laptop computers, which constituted nearly 80 percent of the category.
The data suggests that, despite a common belief that it will only be a matter of time before PCs meet their demise, the market still has pockets of growth where demand remains strong. That being said, it continues to evolve -- overall shipment volumes have not recovered from prior peaks. As a result, expectations have been lowered.
"Industry experts greatly exaggerated the death of the PC," says Jeff Orr, research director at ABI Research.
Personal Computer Market Development Trends
ABI analysts now believe that the PC platform is improving by incorporating designs to provide flexibility for productivity purposes, while also adapting its shape to support tablet-like, touch-screen applications.
Low-cost Chromebooks and high-cost ultra-portable PCs will continue to drive the most growth within the notebook PC market. Moreover, though ultra-portable PCs reach retailers at premium prices, interest for the 2-in-1 systems is increasing due to the versatility that these models provide.
As such, ABI Research predicts that new, low-cost models will emerge from a broader range of system OEMs in 2016 and forecasts ultra-portable PCs will constitute more than 24 percent of total notebook PC unit volume in 2021.
Meanwhile, ABI anticipates that Chromebooks will continue to dominate the education market in 2016, as school initiatives drive toward 1:1 student deployments with a technology device.
The majority of Chromebooks are shipped to the U.S. market, but the education trend is driving growth in other regions around the world -- notably within Western Europe. ABI Research predicts that Chromebooks will represent nearly 7 percent of all notebook PC shipments in 2021.
Exploring Microprocessor Innovation Opportunities
From a semiconductor and operating system standpoint, there remains plenty of opportunity for further notebook PC research and development.
"Intel architecture powers the majority of notebook PCs, and its introduction of the Core M SoC processor greatly enhanced the number of potential systems manufacturers that can participate in the 2-in-1 market," concludes Orr.
With ARM processors dominating mobile devices, many in the industry wonder if an ARM-based PC will eventually surface. With no Windows 10 desktop support for ARM processor architecture, only a handful of Chromebooks are using ARM-based processors in their designs. Therefore, ABI analysts say that they don't expect ARM-based PCs to emerge during the forecast period.
In summary, market data suggests regional growth from the notebook PC category will likely stem from Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa over the next five years as personal computing penetration in both the workplace and consumer markets expands.