Research Finds Top 5 Notebook Vendors' Shipments Fall 11 Percent

Laptop makers probably weren't feeling particularly thankful in November. According to Digitimes Research, shipments from the five largest notebook vendors fell 11 percent that month, even though consumerist "holidays" like Black Friday and Cyber Monday typically lead to strong sales.

Individual results varied. Digitimes Research said that Lenovo saw a ten percent increase in shipments from October to November prompted by Chinese e-commerce platforms. Dell's year-over-year shipments fell, but they were actually higher than they were last November, with a reported sixpercent growth in shipments thanks to enterprise customers. HP's shipments fell month-over-month and dropped 14 percent compared to last year.

DigiTimes (the editorial side of the company) blamed the falling shipments on a continued shortage of Intel CPUs and escalating tensions between the U.S. and China. The former has been a problem since early September, when analysts said a lack of Whiskey Lake processors hurt notebook supplies and gave AMD the chance to gain a foothold in the market. Intel promptly announced investments in fab sites to address the shortage.

The risk posed by the U.S. and China's not-quite-trade-war, meanwhile, has risen over the last few weeks. President Donald Trump told The Wall Street Journal in November that upcoming tariffs could hit laptops and iPhones at a rate of up to ten percent. Trump's aides have reportedly advised against these new tariffs--mostly because they fear the potential consumer backlash--but they could easily be expanded to laptops in the future.

But one month of bad results doesn't necessarily mean doom for the laptop market. The IDC actually said notebooks were "a silver lining" around declining interest in traditional PCs in favor of smartphones. The firm blamed declining laptop sales on a combination of the processor shortage--just like Digitimes Research--but also pointed the finger at a dip in sales for detachable devices (laptops whose displays can become standalone tablets).

The IDC's senior Devices & Displays research analyst, Lauren Guenveur, said 2018 saw the "detachable category waver as important product announcements were pushed to the last quarter of the year." But she said the IDC believes "the market will recover in 2019 as new products from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Google become more readily available." Laptops might be down, but they probably aren't out.