Since corrections continue to occur in the current global notebook computer market as a result of the “overbooking” bubble, destocking of terminal products is expected to continue until the first half of 2023, when cyclical growth momentum is likely to return to the market.
TrendForce forecasts that global notebook computer market shipments will reach 191 million units in 2022, falling 22.3% YoY. The first quarter of 2022 benefitted from a backstop created by market demand for business model notebooks, laying the foundation for a 2022 “not-off off-season.” However, the global notebook computer market encountered zero-COVID control measures in Shanghai, China, resulting in a supply chain suspension in 2Q22. In addition, rising inflation stalled global consumer electronics market demand. Shipment volume is only expected to be approximately 44.35 million units up until 4Q22, demonstrating that 2022 has reversed the established market norm, replacing “QoQ growth” with “QoQ decline.”
Global notebook computer market shipments will reach 177 million units in 2023, cyclical growth momentum is expected to play an important role
Looking back on 2022, due to the reversal of demand in the global notebook computer market beginning in 2Q22, the overbooking bubble caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has corrected quarter by quarter, resulting in a sharp increase in inventory levels at PC brands. Therefore, accelerating the destocking of notebook computer products is the current focus of PC brands with individual sales channels all adopting promotional strategies based on substantial price cuts. If the inventory level of terminal products can be reduced, it will be beneficial for PC brands to continue purchasing semiconductors and other materials in 2023 and pessimistic market conditions will not spread to the foundry industry, which is conducive to a positive cycle.
Movements in the current global laptop market to correct for the overbooking bubble will continue until the first half of 2023. The second half of 2023 coincides with cyclical growth momentum from back-to-school shopping and holiday seasons in major consumer electronics markets such as the United States, Europe, China, and Japan, and the global notebook computer supply chain is expected to ramp up supply from 2Q23 to reproduce a demand scenario wherein the second half of previous years surpassed the first half. Global notebook computer market shipments is estimated to reach 177 million units in 2023, an annual decline of approximately 7.7% and the proportion of shipments in terms of the first half compared to the second half of the year will be approximately 47:53.
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The expected 2022 development pattern of the notebook computer business laptop market will show that Lenovo, Dell, HP, Apple, Asus, and Acer, the world’s six leading notebook computer OEMs, account for a total business laptop market share of as high as 94%, which is a double-digit percentage gain compared to a market share of 80.8% in 2021. Shipments of business laptops originating from the six major OEMs in 2022 is estimated to reach 80.29 million units, an increase of 8.2% compared to 74.22 million units in 2021, which is contrary to the YoY decline of 6.7% in the overall global business laptop market from 2021 to 2022.
Upon further observation, the aforementioned development trend is primarily due to a sharp decrease in the supply of small market share business laptops from OEMs such as Samsung, NEC, Huawei, and Xiaomi, while supply from the six major OEMs has increased. Comparing the two, the target market of smaller market share OEMs may be limited to their respective home countries. If market demand for business laptops in their home countries approaches saturation, coupled with limited capacity for expansion and a lack of strategic planning for global market access, it will be difficult to displace the top six OEMs with their targeted global market scope, nor do smaller market share OEMs have the strategic and technical ability to expand production capacity in time to meet the huge demand of the global business laptop market.
Performance of global business laptop market will decline sharply in 2023 and pandemic premiums are expected to reappear in 2024-2025
As the key driving force behind the global notebook computer market, business laptops are expected to reach 85.45 million units in 2022, a YoY decline of approximately 6.7% compared with 91.55 million units in 2021. However, shipments of business laptops will account for 43.8% of total shipments of all laptops (including business, consumer, and Chromebook laptops), setting a record for highest proportion of shipments in the past five years and since the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. With Chromebook shipments losing momentum, business laptop sales growth has prevented the market from falling off a cliff.
With the end of pandemic-related business laptop demand, business laptop shipments in the global notebook computer market is expected to diminish to 74.94 million units in 2023, and YoY decline will expand to 12.3%. If inflation in the consumer electronics market can be significantly slowed in 2H22 and the 1H23, cyclical “back-to-school” and “holiday season” growth momentum in 2H23 will benefit the notebook computer consumer product market, increasing the proportion of consumer device shipments in the global notebook computer market to 49.4% in 2023, while the proportion of business laptop shipments will recede marginally to 41.6%.
Although growth momentum in the current business laptop market is weak, the market performance of business laptops is still highly anticipated due to the “bulk sale” characteristic of business laptops, the fact that many companies must purchase replacement “Durable Goods” every 2-3 years, and the expectation that business laptops purchased during the severe pandemic of the past two years will be replaced subsequently from 2024 to 2025.
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In 2021, notebook panel shipments reached a record high of 282 million units, with an annual growth rate of 25.1%, according to TrendForce’s research. In the first half of the year, demand was driven by the pandemic and primarily focused on consumer notebooks and Chromebooks while, in the second half of the year, as Europe and the United States gradually lifted lockdowns and work returned to normal, demand largely shifted to commercial models, which continued to support the demand for notebook panels throughout the year.
It is worth noting that TrendForce believes shipment totals of notebook panels from 1Q22 to 2Q22 may be corrected. Notebook panel shipments in 1Q22 are estimated at approximately 67.9 million units, a QoQ decline of 9.7% while 2Q22 shipments are expected to drop to 61.4 million units, down 9.5% QoQ. In addition to the impact of the traditional off-season, there are two reasons for this correction. One is that inventory on the brand-side has increased. Due to the shortage of panels in the past two years, the brand-side continued to purchase panels in 2021 to avoid supply chain disruption. Normally, notebook brands hold 4 to 8 weeks of inventory but some brands have already stocked up to 8 weeks. Two, since a whole notebook requires numerous components, it cannot be assembled and shipped if even one is missing. Limitations impose by incomplete materials lists caused the growth rate of notebook computer shipments to fall behind that of panel shipments, shifting notebook computer panels into oversupply.
Despite this, TrendForce has specifically mentioned, since the profit margin of notebook panels still beats LCD monitor panels and TV panels, panel makers will still desire an increase in the supply of notebook panels. However, in the face of a possible correction in notebook panel shipments, panel makers may accumulate more inventory and deepen the downward pressure on notebook panel pricing.
Looking forward to 2022, panel shipment performance and price trends will be adversely affected by adjustments in notebook brand inventories in 1H22. In 2H22, notebook brands will continue to focus on sales plans for whole notebook computers. The sales performance of these brands during the peak season is still worth looking forward to and the restocking momentum of notebook panels is expected to recover. Current estimates put the shipment of notebook panels at 265 million in 2022, a decrease of 6.0% YoY.
Due to the pandemic, laptops shipments reached a record high of 240 million units in 2021, according to TrendForce‘s investigations. However, the market has been abuzz recently and, as the global population of the fully vaccinated has exceeded 50%, relevant demand driven by the pandemic is expected to gradually weaken. Shipment volume will decrease by 3.3% year-on-year, revised down slightly to 238 million units. Chromebooks will account for approximately 12.3% of shipment volume, though it accounted for approximately 15.2% in 2021. The momentum of shipments has slowed down significantly which indicates that demand derived from the economic effect of remote working and teaching has subsided.
TrendForce further states that Chromebook shipments declined sharply by nearly 50% in 2H21 due to the end of the Japanese government’s education tender and an increase in U.S. market share. However, thanks to the sequential return to the office of European and American companies driving a wave of commercial equipment replacement, shipments of commercial laptops have grown rapidly to make up for the shortfall. In turn, the shipment of laptops in 4Q21 hit the highest levels of the year, reaching 64.6 million units. In addition, due to the severe shortage of IC materials in mature processes, the backlog of orders extends to 1Q22 and the off-season is expected to be short. Compared with the average quarterly reduction of 15% in previous years, this year’s pullback is expected to be less than 10%.
It is worth noting that due to the shortage of container ships and issues with port congestion, shipping time has been prolonged, increasing by two to three times from manufacturers in mainland China to the United States compared to before the epidemic. Notebook brands have all been shipping in advance and the proportion of air freight shipments has increased. However, shipping time still exceeds expectations, which may flood the supply chain with duplicate orders from downstream customers, resulting in overstocked inventories and the risk of subsequent orders being canceled. In addition, the wave of commercial equipment replacement driven by a return to the office will be a major variable that will affect the demand for notebooks in 2022, resulting in near-term buzz in the market.
TrendForce indicated that in the past, due to factors such as fewer working days during the Lunar New Year Holiday and labor shortages in mainland China, brands would often require large OEMs to produce and ship before the Lunar New Year. This first quarter end-of-season surge will start from this month. Even though changes in end-user demand is unclear, March will see the beginning of a production surge to end the first quarter. If there is a major change in demand at that time, it may lead to an accumulation of distribution channel inventory, leading to a downward revision in demand, and a return to the normal equipment replacement cycle.
Despite their similar physical dimensions, notebook panels and tablet panels entail drastically different market conditions. Being two of the strongest performers in the relatively oligopolistic tablet market, Apple and Samsung collectively possess a nearly 60% market share, thereby forcing other brands to adopt a relatively passive strategy that prioritizes conserving market share over adopting emerging technologies. In contrast, the notebook computer market has remained competitive throughout the years, with market leaders HP, Lenovo, and Dell holding the absolute advantage in the commercial notebook segment. Even so, Acer and Asus still enjoy some degree of dominance in the consumer segment, not to mention the fact that Apple has carved a niche market of its own thanks to the absolute differentiation of MacBooks from the rest of the field.
With greater diversity of brands comes greater competition in the market. As such, companies must now continue to refresh their product specs and product ranges in order to stay competitive. In this regard, Mini LED products would appear to be likelier to see adoption in the notebook computer market than in the tablet market. It should be pointed out that SDC (Samsung Display Co.) holds the sole patent for OLED tablet panels – the main competitor of display solutions featuring Mini LED backlights and LCD panels. Although SDC is still figuring out its medium- and long-term strategies in the tablet market, it has been relatively aggressive in capturing share in the notebook market. For instance, SDC’s OLED notebook panels have been gradually cannibalizing market shares from LCD notebook panels since 2021. To date, more than four million notebook computers featuring Samsung’s OLED panels have been shipped, accounting for a nearly 2% market share. In addition, almost all mainstream notebook brands have started carrying their respective lineup of OLED notebooks.
The meteoric rise of OLED models in the notebook market this year can primarily be attributed to SDC, which is the sole supplier of OLED notebook panels. Whereas SDC previously allocated most of its production capacity for OLED (Rigid OLED) panels to smartphone displays, the successive ramp-up of Gen 6 production lines for OLED (Flexible OLED) panels in China has resulted in a hypercompetitive market with plummeting quotes that both placed significant downward pressure on the existing price band of rigid OLED panels and negatively affected demand for rigid OLED panels. Given that the aforementioned factors are unlikely to reverse course, SDC has therefore decided to reallocate their production capacity for rigid OLED panels from smartphone displays to notebook displays instead, since the former has continued to decline as an added value while the latter appears to have much more potential for growth.
Incidentally, SDC has spent considerable time cultivating its presence in the notebook computer market. The company formerly positioned its OLED solutions exclusively in the flagship market segment, with UHD/4K being the only resolution available on its OLED notebook panels. The adoption of these products was lukewarm at best due to OLED panels’ prohibitive prices and the very limited target audience for UHD models. Moving to 2020, however, SDC adopted a more ambitious approach to the notebook market and subsequently released a host of OLED panels featuring Full HD resolution in accordance with the mainstream market’s demands. By doing so, SDC was able to not only substantially lower its OLED notebook panel quotes, but also align its products with the enormous total addressable market of mainstream notebook consumers, in turn skyrocketing notebook brands’ willingness to adopt OLED panels.
Not only have OLED displays enjoyed a longstanding presence in the high-end smartphone and TV segments, but most consumers also generally understand that OLED panels are superior to traditional LCD panels with respect to such specifications as color saturation, contrast levels, and even physical thickness. For notebook computer brands, adopting OLED panels in their displays allows said brands to cut down on costs that would otherwise have to be spent on either educating the average consumer on popular science topics related to display technology or marketing the brands’ display solutions, as OLED displays’ superior specs are already widely known. That is why almost all mainstream brands, ranging from Asus to HP and Dell, have released OLED-equipped notebook computers, some of which even boast consumer-oriented product positions and consumer-friendly retail prices.
On the other hand, although the integration of Mini LED backlights significantly bolsters LCD panels’ traditionally weak contrast levels, significant marketing costs are required to ensure consumers understand the benefits of this new backlighting technology. While OLED solutions are already widely recognized in the market, Mini LED products’ vast marketing costs represent a significant competitive weakness against OLED products. Furthermore, manufacturing costs of display solutions that feature Mini LED backlights and LCD panel modules are about 30-50% higher than those of equivalent solutions featuring OLED panel modules due to the former’s complex design, high number of components, and limited economy of scale. Hence, high manufacturing costs are yet another obstacle preventing brands from investing in Mini LED development.
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