TrendForce expects global notebook shipment for 2021 to reach 244 million units, with 49% and 51% of the annual shipment taking place in 1H21 and 2H21, respectively. This distribution would seem to indicate that, although the growth momentum of consumer notebook models that began in 1H21 has gradually waned, strong performances from the commercial notebook segment are able to provide some upward momentum for the notebook market’s shipment performance in 2H21.
The first half of the year saw tight supply of materials, strong upside demand, and a market driven primarily by consumer models
Despite the shortage of materials from the supply chain, global notebook shipment for 1H21 still reached 119 million units. During this time, the COVID-19 pandemic caused considerable worldwide impact. Given the important role played by notebook computers in bringing business, education, and entertainment from the real world to the virtual world, shipments of commercial notebooks, Chromebooks, and gaming notebooks, which respectively fulfill the three aforementioned functions, remained strong.
Take Chromebooks as an example; shipment of these products reached 25.94 million units for 1H21, primarily thanks to a wave of procurement demand for educational notebooks, which are primarily produced and sold in response to tender offers, by the US, Japanese, and western European governments in an attempt to immediately kick off distance learning initiatives. The bullish Chromebook market also incidentally resulted in a 70% increase across the 1Q20-2Q21 period in the ASP of 11.6-inch notebook panels, which are used in mainstream Chromebook models.
Shifting demand and stabilizing supply of materials in 2H21 mean commercial notebooks have now become the primary driver of market growth
As the supply chain’s availability of materials gradually stabilizes in 2H21, global shipment of notebooks for the period will still likely reach 125 million units, a 5.7% increase compared with 1H21. Regarding quarterly shipments, market demand peaked in 3Q21, during which a total of 62.73 million notebooks were shipped. Following this peak, demand has remained mostly unchanged in 4Q21, reaching a forecasted 62.71 million units in shipment for the quarter. This slight decline can primarily be attributed to an estimated shipment of 11.62 million Chromebooks for 2H21, which is a 55.2% decrease from 1H21. The downturn of Chromebooks indicates that the educational notebook market, which is mostly driven by Chromebooks, no longer has sufficient momentum to keep up its high shipment in 2H21. Instead, demand has now shifted to commercial notebooks as the pandemic’s slowdown resulted in a corresponding return to physical offices and schools for work and study, respectively.
Fortunately for notebook manufacturers, commercial notebooks, which are primarily aimed at servicing enterprise customers, are able to shore up the weakening demand for other product categories in time in 2H21. On average, up to 34% of the product mixes offered by notebook brands such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo now consist of commercial models during this period. As such, TrendForce expects commercial notebook shipment for 2021 to reach 65.61 million units and account for 26.9% of total notebook shipment for the year.
The current state of the notebook panel market shows that prices of notebook panels are likely to follow the same trend set by TV panels and monitor panels in 4Q21. In other words, notebook panels may see their prices plummet from the previous uptrend during the quarter.
Notebook brands are confident that a wave of demand for commercial notebooks will take the place of the prior demand for consumer notebooks. Objectively speaking, however, as soon as enterprises return to pre-pandemic business operations, they are unlikely to immediately spend a considerable amount of their budget on refreshing their existing hardware, including notebook computers.
On the other hand, although consumer purchases comprised most WFH demand for notebooks within the past year, these notebooks were purchased with subsidies funded by the buyers’ workplaces. Once consumers return to physical offices for work following the termination of WFH, their purchased notebooks will then be returned to the workplaces as well. Hence, notebook brands which previously anticipated an upcoming wave of replacement demand for business notebooks may be overly optimistic in their expectations. As such, although notebook shipment has remained bullish in 3Q21, notebook sales are likely to gradually slow down going forward, meaning notebook vendors and brands alike may enter into a key period of inventory adjustment in 4Q21. At the same time, notebook manufacturers will also decelerate their procurement activities for panels across their entire range of notebook computers.
The four largest notebook panel suppliers still exert significant influence over the market’s overall supply of notebook panels, although newcomer HKC is not to be underestimated in terms of its potential to do the same, even pertaining to quotes. While HKC did not ship a single notebook panel in 2020, the company has ambitiously targeted an annual shipment of 10 million units this year in light of the expanded production capacity for IPS panels at its Mianyang fab. In 1H21, however, the display industry suffered a severe shortage of driver ICs, whose manufacturers first sought to ensure a steady supply of driver ICs for their more established clients. Being a notebook panel supplier that had had no business foundation, HKC, as was typical of such upstart companies, had its supply of driver ICs accordingly “adjusted” by driver IC suppliers. HKC was hence unable to effectively raise its shipment for 1H21.
As the demand for panels from various end-product segments slows down in 2H21, the shortage situation of driver ICs is also expected to either lessen somewhat or even turn into a supply-demand equilibrium. As such, HKC is likely to procure more driver ICs from its suppliers and subsequently step up its notebook panel shipment to 3.5 million units in 3Q21 and 4 million units in 4Q21. HKC’s increase in panel shipment for 2H21, if proven successful, will place downward pressure on notebook panel prices, thereby weakening said prices going forward.
TrendForce believes that 11.6-inch panels, the market for which has been relatively bearish, will most likely experience a decline in quotes starting in early 4Q21. At this size, even Full HD/IPS products, quotes for which have been relatively high in 3Q21, are likely to see their quotes hold flat in November 2021 and experience a sudden downward pressure on prices at the end of the year. Should the COVID-19 pandemic be brought under control on a global scale, demand for consumer electronics would likely return to its cyclical downturn in 1Q22, and the notebook panel market, despite its relatively robust supply chain, would see a more severe overall price accordingly.
Now that most negotiations over contract prices of PC DRAM for 3Q21 have concluded, DRAM suppliers’ low inventories and the arrival of the peak season for DRAM procurement have resulted in a 3-8% QoQ increase in PC DRAM contract prices for 3Q21, although this is a relatively muted growth compared to the 25% increase experienced in 2Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations.
However, demand for PC DRAM in the spot market began to show signs of bearish movement in early July ahead of time, as DRAM suppliers continued to lower prices in order to adjust their DRAM inventories. Regarding the contract market, PC OEMs currently carry relatively high levels of DRAM inventory because they substantially stocked up on PC DRAM beforehand in anticipation of an upcoming shortage. Not only has PC OEMs’ high DRAM inventory put downward pressure on possible price hikes for PC DRAM, but the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Europe and the US will also likely lower the overall demand for notebook computers, thereby pulling down the overall demand for PC DRAM. TrendForce therefore forecasts a 0-5% QoQ decline in PC DRAM contract prices for 4Q21.
Regarding spot prices of DRAM modules, most major module suppliers have also started to lower prices in an attempt at inventory reduction, leading to a persistent downward trend for spot prices of PC DRAM modules throughout August. According to TrendForce’s findings, this decline in spot prices of mainstream PC DRAM modules, which began on May 20th, accumulated to 32% as of August 3. Furthermore, spot prices of PC DRAM modules have, for the first time in 2021, now fallen below contract prices for 3Q21 by almost as much as 20% and are unlikely to experience a price hike in the short run.
Since PC OEMs still keep a high inventory of PC DRAM, their upcoming procurement activities for PC DRAM will likely remain sluggish
An overview of the PC DRAM market throughout 2021 shows that, as the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in 2Q21, most purchasers aggressively stocked up on various components, including memory solutions, in order to avoid possible shortages, and these stock-up activities were particularly bullish in the PC market. As a result, PC DRAM prices underwent a massive 25% increase in April, and demand bits also saw a surge during the quarter.
Moving into 3Q21, buyers and sellers in the PC DRAM and server DRAM markets found it difficult to reach an agreement while negotiating over contract prices throughout the end of July. As such, the increase in PC DRAM prices for 3Q21, along with the increase in PC DRAM sales bits, is significantly weaker compared to 2Q21. In addition, TrendForce indicated at the end of June that most PC OEMs were carrying about 8 to 10 weeks’ worth of PC DRAM inventory, with some even surpassing 10 weeks. Their inventories have not undergone significant improvements as of early August. As these PC OEMs gradually take delivery of DRAM they procured for 3Q21, some of them now carry inventories exceeding 12 weeks’ supply. TrendForce therefore believes that the persistently growing inventories of PC OEMs will likely result in a further weakening of PC DRAM contract prices in 4Q21.
Looking ahead to 4Q21, TrendForce expects PC shipment, particularly Chromebook shipment, to remain in a downward trajectory following increased vaccinations in Europe and the US. The latest data show that branded Chromebook shipment peaked in 2Q21 and subsequently underwent monthly declines following this peak. Furthermore, the overall demand for notebook computers has started waning as the general public resumes its day to day activities, such as a return to offices and schools, in light of the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Europe and the US. Hence, TrendForce believes that, despite the cyclical upturn of the notebook market in 4Q21, as well as the commercial segment’s replacement demand, ODMs will likely continue to cut back on notebook production on a quarterly basis, in turn decreasing the overall demand for PC DRAM.
Prices of both consumer DRAM and graphics DRAM are expected to enter into a downturn in 4Q21 owing to weak supply and demand
In sum, the sufficiency ratio of PC DRAM increased from -1.13% in 3Q21 to 0.28% in 4Q21. Hence, TrendForce expects contract prices of PC DRAM to take a downward turn in 4Q21, while prices of DDR4 consumer DRAM, which are highly correlated with PC DRAM prices, will likely undergo a similar decline. Likewise, contract prices of graphics DRAM are expected experience a looming decline as well, since the sudden cryptocurrency downturn resulted in a corresponding plummet in cryptocurrency mining demand and, by extension, spot prices of graphics DRAM, which is used in cryptocurrency mining equipment.
Regarding server DRAM, contract prices are expected to mostly hold flat, without noticeable hints of price hikes, in 4Q21. This trend can be attributed to the server industry’s migration to Intel’s new Ice Lake platform, which has been steadily rising in terms of penetration rate, as well as the fact that demand for servers has yet to weaken. However, MoM declines in server DRAM contract prices may potentially take place in November and December. Likewise, mobile DRAM prices are expected to remain relatively unchanged in 4Q21 compared to the previous quarter. The profitability and ASP/Gb of this product category are relatively lower compared to other DRAM products, such as PC DRAM and server DRAM, and it did not experience as much of an uptrend during the prior quarters. Hence, while PC DRAM prices are expected to decline in 4Q21, mobile DRAM prices will remain sustainable, without undergoing a similar decline.
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While the stay-at-home economy generated high demand for notebook computers from distance learning and WFH applications last year, global notebook shipment for 2020 underwent a nearly 26% YoY increase, which represented a significant departure from the cyclical 3% YoY increase/decrease that had historically taken place each year, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. The uptrend in notebook demand is expected to persist in 2021, during which notebook shipment will likely reach 236 million units, a 15% YoY increase. In particular, thanks to the surging demand for education notebooks, Chromebooks will become the primary growth driver in the notebook market. Regarding the shipment performance of various brands, Samsung and Apple will register the highest growths, with the former having Chromebooks account for nearly 50% of its total notebook shipment this year and the latter continuing to release MacBooks equipped with the M1 chip.
Chromebooks have been accounting for an increasingly high share in the notebook market in recent years, and Chromebook shipment is expected to reach a historical peak this year at 47 million units, a staggering 50% YoY growth. The vast majority (70%) of global Chromebook demand comes from the US, while Japan takes second place with 10%. However, the US education notebook market is gradually saturated with Chromebooks, and the general public has also been returning to physical workplaces and classrooms following the lifting of domestic restrictions. In addition, the Japanese GIGA School program, which equips student with computers and internet access, has notably slowed down its notebook procurement. The global demand for education notebooks will therefore slightly lose momentum in 2H21.
Regarding notebook brands, as Chromebooks occupy a relatively large allocation of notebook shipment by Acer and Samsung, the two companies are likely to bear the brunt of the education market’s downturn. TrendForce therefore believes that the Chromebook market’s growth going forward will mainly depend on regions outside the US as well as non-education applications.
Global demand for notebooks will decelerate in 2H21, with the bulk of the slowdown taking place in 4Q21
It should be pointed out that certain recent rumors claim that the demand for notebooks will decline in 2H21. This decline can be primarily attributed to the fact that notebook brands are increasingly finding Chromebooks’ low margins to be unprofitable, while 11.6-inch panels, which are used in 70% of all Chromebooks, have also skyrocketed in price, and certain semiconductor components are in shortage. In light of these factors, brands are starting to lower the share of Chromebooks in their overall notebook production for 2H21. TrendForce expects consumer demand in Europe and the US to gradually weaken in 3Q21. However, low inventory levels in the channel markets will still generate some upward momentum propelling the notebook market. Hence, quarterly notebook shipment in 3Q21 is expected to remain unchanged compared to 2Q21.
Furthermore, the pandemic has gradually been brought under control in Europe and the US due to increased vaccinations. Therefore, the slowdown of demand in the overall notebook market and in education sector bids will not come into force until 4Q21, during which notebook shipment is expected to reach 58 million units, a 3% QoQ decrease. At the same time, the fact that notebook manufacturers overbooked certain components, which subsequently resulted in additional inventory, will likely have implications in 4Q21 as well. Going forward, although notebook demand will likely slow in 2022, the normalization of the hybrid-work model as well as the recovering demand for business notebooks will provide some upward momentum for annual notebook shipment next year, which will reach 220 million units, a minor downward correction of 6% YoY.
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The stay-at-home economy generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized a rising demand for IT products this year, with a corresponding increase in DDI demand as well, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. More specifically, large-sized DDI demand is expected to increase by as much as 7.4% YoY in 2021, although the availability of 8-inch foundry capacity in the upstream supply chain is expected to increase by a mere 2.5% YoY due to other chips with relatively higher margins occupying much of this capacity. Foundries such as NexChip and SMIC are still continuing to install production capacities this year, and the supply of large-sized DDI will undergo a slight increase as a result. However, these newly installed capacities will be unable to fully alleviate the scarcity of large-sized DDI, which may potentially persist until the end of 2021.
While the supply of TCON similarly faces the issue of shortage, high-end TCON models bear the brunt of the impact
In addition to the tight supply of large-sized DDI, the recent shortage of TCON (timing controllers) has also adversely affected the shipment volume of large-sized panels, especially for high-end TCON models. The shortage of TCON can primarily be attributed to the fact that high-end TCON is mainly manufactured in 12-inch fabs, where various chips compete over limited wafer capacities. In addition, backend logic IC packaging and testing capacities are similarly in short supply, thereby adding further risk to the supply of TCON. In particular, manufacturing high-end TCON requires longer wire bonding time compared with mainstream TCON, meaning the current shortage of wire bonding capacity will lead to a widening shortage of high-end TCON. While the expanding capacity of packaging and testing services for logic chips is yet to catch up to the surging demand for various end products, the shortage of high-end TCON will unlikely be alleviated in the short run.
Prices of large-sized DDI will undergo an increase once again in 3Q21 due to persistently tight supply
TrendForce’s investigations indicate that, as 8-inch foundry capacities fall short of market demand, production capacities allocated to large-sized DDI have accordingly been crowded out by other chips. Foundry quotes are also expected to undergo an increase once again in 3Q21. Hence, IC suppliers will accordingly raise their large-sized DDI quotes for clients in the panel manufacturing industry as well. It should be pointed out that the demand for IT products is expected to slow down in response to increased vaccinations in Europe and the US, where governments have been gradually easing lockdown measures and border restrictions. Therefore, demand for panels, which has remained in an upward trajectory since last year, will likely experience a gradual downward correction in 4Q21, thus narrowing the gap between supply and demand of large-sized DDI. However, IC suppliers will not be able to address the tight supply of backend packaging and testing capacity in the short run, so panel suppliers will still need to contend with a shortage of TCON going forward.
On the whole, IC suppliers are unlikely to obtain sufficient 8-inch foundry capacities for manufacturing large-sized DDI, since 8-inch fabs will continue to operate at maximum capacity utilization rates for the next year. IC suppliers must therefore flexibly adjust their large-sized DDI procurement in accordance with cyclical downturns of foundry demand. In other words, the supply and demand situation of large-sized DDI and TCON will remain key to the supply and demand of panels in 2022.
For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department o Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at email@example.com