Chromebooks and Macs Enjoy Huge Quarantine Quarter in the U.S.

on August 7, 2020

The entire PC industry experienced a very good second quarter. And here in the United States, we saw exceptionally strong results with a year-over-year growth rate of 18.8% in the traditional PC market comprised of desktops, notebooks, and workstations, according to IDC’s latest data. Inside that monster quarter, all the major platforms—Windows, ChromeOS, and macOS—saw growth, but the latter two saw massive expansion during the quarter that is worth exploring in more detail.

ChromeOS Growth
During the second quarter, Chrome OS saw 29.7% year-over-year growth, with shipments well north of 6 million units, which represented 27.3% of the U.S. market. What is notable about that number is that it spread across segments, including consumers, education, and business.

The success of Chromebooks in U.S. education is well documented. Google and its OEM partners have seen steady growth in the education segment over the years, thanks to a combination of low-cost devices, easy-to-use device manageability, and strong security. In the second quarter, as schools around the country shifted to school from home, many school districts began accelerating their purchase of Chromebooks. As a result, the education segment saw substantial year-over-year growth, and it continues to represent more than 75% of Chromebook shipments in the United States.

Based on my ongoing conversations with both OEMs and component vendors, there is strong reason to believe that Chromebooks will also enjoy a strong third quarter in education. Schools continue to buy devices in anticipation of a challenging fall semester that is likely to include at least some school-from-home elements. In fact, many inside the supply chain believe that we could see strong education shipments well into the fourth quarter, well beyond normal seasonality, as schools build out their fleets for ongoing 1-to-1 device requirements looking ahead to 2021 and beyond.

While the strength of Chrome OS in education may not be too surprising, the other area where we saw strong shipment growth was in consumer. That segment grew even faster than education, although from a much smaller base, to represent more than 15% of shipments. While some percentage of these purchases was undoubtedly consumers purchasing Chromebooks for personal use, I believe a sizeable chunk of these purchases through consumer-focused channels is for work purposes. That’s because as companies shut down and sent employees to work from home, many weren’t able to acquire the PCs they needed through their normal channels, and so they had to ask employees to go out and buy their own, to be reimbursed later.

I’ve long argued that I see a role for Chromebooks in business, and this current shift to work from home could be an inflection point. We’ve seen a wide range of enterprises test out Chromebooks, and even deploy them to a subset of their employee installed base. Many companies jumped into the Chrome OS pool in the second quarter and found the water just fine. I expect many to swim deeper in during the coming months and years.

macOS Growth
During the second quarter, MacOS saw a whopping 70% year-over-year growth, with shipments of more than 3.2 million units, which represented 14.5% of the U.S. market. In early May, Apple updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with its new Magic Keyboard and more storage.

In the U.S., macOS enjoyed strong growth across all of the segments IDC covers, including all sizes of business. As you might expect, the consumer segment was the strongest of all, representing 80.1% year-over-year growth and more than half of total shipments. Apple also saw a nice education bump during the quarter, but nothing near the size of Chrome OS. That said, as we head into the third quarter and higher-education students and their families begin to prepare for what promises to be an interesting fall college semester, Apple is likely to see strong volumes. It’s worth noting that when an individual purchases a Macbook through retail, for use at college, it shows up as a consumer unit in our data. If a college makes the purchase and distributes it to students, it shows up as an education unit.

One interesting aspect to watch: During WWDC, Apple announced that the first Macs running Apple Silicon would ship in the fourth quarter. It is unclear yet if this announcement will cause some buyers to hold off on new Macs during the third quarter in anticipation of the new products. However, with Apple continuing to announce new Intel-based Mac products—including an updated 27-inch iMac this week—I suspect many Mac buyers won’t let the pending new product(s) slow their current purchases.

Outlook for 2H20
It is worth noting that while Chrome OS and macOS both had excellent quarters, Windows also saw good growth in the U.S. during the quarter. And Windows-based PCs still represent more than 58% of all units shipped in 2Q20.
Looking ahead, and based on ODM data, the third quarter is off to a strong start. The big question is whether that growth is sustainable through the quarter and into the final quarter of the year. At some point, the economic reality will set in. As companies downsize and consumers face steep unemployment, buying will drop off. It is too soon to say precisely when that will be, and even if buying remains strong through this year, it does set the market up for a challenging 2021.