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Laptops by the Numbers: Market Share and More

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Walk into a tech store anywhere and you’ll see the same five or six laptop brands on the shelves. Lenovo. HP. Dell. Maybe some ASUS or Acer models. Unless you’ve wandered into an Apple store, of course.

The laptop market is very narrow, with the three top vendors accounting for 60% of unit shipments.

Lap Top Global Market Share 2017
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Lap Top Global Market Share 2018
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Global laptop sales totaled $101.7 billion in 2017, with 161.6 million units shipped worldwide. The market was dominated by six large PC manufacturers: HP, Lenovo, Dell, Apple, ASUS, and Acer. Companies like Toshiba, MSI, Microsoft, and Samsung also rank high, accounting for a combined 13% of global laptop market share in 2017

According to a study conducted by Grand View Research, global laptop sales are estimated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of just 0.4% through 2025. Unit shipments are projected to rise at a CAGR of 1% to be registered during the same period.

The laptop market’s continued expansion is due to the ever-spreading internet grid, rising disposable incomes, swelling global population, and increasing interest among consumers, especially outside Europe and North America. 

The PC industry faces a number of challenges. For seven years in a row, PC sales (laptops included) have been on the decline as consumers do more and more of their computing with smartphones and tablets. As early as 2015, 13.5% of the world’s population owned a tablet. The technology swept the market by storm, causing a significant decline in personal computer sales of all kinds. 

Robust desktop PCs are still key for business enterprises and government institutions all over the world, as smartphones and tablets are not yet able to match their power. That is why the only two consumer groups still purchasing PCs are gamers and high-income professionals. 

Laptops fall somewhere in between PCs and smartphones. There seems to be an ongoing need for high-end notebooks capable of performing demanding tasks like gaming and software development. And small, inexpensive laptops directly compete with tablets.  

Will laptops survive in the shrinking space between PCs and smartphones? It’s hard to say. Here’s what the market looks like today.

Market Share of Laptop Brands

Laptop market share is shared by a handful of players. Judging by laptop sales statistics, the three or  four top companies seem well-positioned to retain their dominance and continued sales.

Market share is static, but technology isn’t. Laptop vendors must struggle to keep up with ever-changing technological developments and innovations, coming to terms with 5G network technology, augmented reality, and more. The industry sets its goals high when making devices affordable and accessible to the widest array of users. 

A strong presence in the desktop PC industry turns out to be a good thing for laptop makers. The PC industry increasingly focuses on volume buyers like governments and corporations. When purchasing managers select a PC brand, they negotiate for laptops as part of the same contract. It is no coincidence that the top laptop sellers also have a strong presence in the PC market. It is not unusual for laptop makers to find themselves bidding for commercial contracts with multinational companies, supplying thousands, even tens of thousands of units.

The PC industry reported a year-on-year increase in the second and third quarter of 2018, only to fall by 4.3% in the last quarter, which meant an overall decline of 1.3% compared to 2017. Analysts trace the drop to a shortage of Intel CPUs, a theory lent credibility by a 4.7% year-over-year increase in unit sales during the second quarter of 2019.

That’s the landscape. Here are the players in the global laptop market. 

Hewlett-Packard

Lenovo has established itself as the top PC manufacturer in the world in recent years, but HP is a fierce rival when it comes to laptops and notebook computers. Rivalry in the Lenovo vs HP battle is tight, with the two vendors swapping first and second place year by year.

In 2017, HP hit a milestone, shipping 40 million units despite a general decline in global laptop sales. The figure represented a 10.5% increase over 2016. HP lost the lead by a thread in 2018, most market-watchers agree, acquiring 21.7% of global laptop market share compared to Lenovo’s 22.5%.

HP’s sales are mostly generated from popular models like Envy, Elitebook, Pavilion, Omen, and Pavilion Gaming.

Thanks to the company’s stronghold of loyal users in the United States, where it holds almost 30% market share, HP remains the most popular laptop manufacturer in North America. 

Judging by preliminary reports from the second quarter of 2019, the company experienced 3.2% year-over-year growth globally, with Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the United States, and Japan accounting for the lion’s share. 

Lenovo

In 2017, Lenovo’s global laptop market share was just above 20%. After a year-on-year drop of 4.9% in the first half of 2017, the Chinese company made efforts to boost sales in Asia and Europe. Those efforts couldn’t reverse the company’s slide.

Since the slowdown, Lenovo has struggled to reclaim its dominant position on the world stage, leading to strong results in 2018. The tech giant managed to grab the largest piece of the global laptop market share pie by the year’s end. After recording three consecutive quarters of double-digit year-over-year shipment growth, Lenovo ended the year with a 22.5% share of the global laptop market. 

Desktop PCs and laptop series such as ThinkPad, ThinkBook, IdeaPad, Yoga, and Legion contributed to Lenovo’s record 58.4 million unit shipments in 2018, putting Lenovo at the very top of the industry.  

Fast-forward to the second quarter of 2019 and the company is still going strong, holding an estimated 25% share of the market. HP ranked second at 22.2%. 

These figures demonstrate that Lenovo experienced a surge in sales, and they might be misleading. The company became a major stakeholder in Fujitsu in 2018, which could be responsible for a one-time boost in unit sales. HP’s not out of the game yet.

Dell Technologies

American PC manufacturer Dell has seen an increase in market share after nailing several key government contracts for notebooks in the United States and Canada. Moreover, Dell’s supply of Chromebooks has allowed it to snatch a piece of the low-end pie. All told, Dell achieving 16.2% global laptop market share in 2018. Series like Alienware, Inspiron, Latitude, and XPS  epresents Dell’s main firepower on the laptop market, with the company shipping around 41.9 million units. 

The company held third place in laptop brand ranking in 2017 and 2018. The company seems to be holding on to third place in 2019 as well. Much like HP, Dell is among the most popular computer brands in the United States, where it held 28.4% of total PC shipments in the second quarter of 2019. 

IDC predicts that Dell will hang on to its third-place position in the laptop market and that it will enjoy a healthy 3.1% growth rate by the time 2019’s numbers are in.

Apple Inc.

Everyone knows that Apple computers are a breed apart. The iconic slim design and superior computing power have always made Apple one of the industry’s top computer vendors. The army of Mac faithful makes sure that Apple gets its piece of the pie each year. 

Apple held fourth place in 2017 on the global laptop market, shipping approximately 19.7 million units. This total set Apple’s market share in desktop and laptop computers at 7.6% worldwide. As for Apple’s laptop market share, it stood at 9.6% in 2017.

An updated version of the MacBook Pro in the second quarter of 2017 led to a sales spike compared to other notebook brands. This allowed Apple to enjoy a 1.3% increase in shipments compared to 2016. The growth let Apple grab fourth place in the world laptop market, pushing ASUS to fifth. 

In 2018, Apple and other manufacturers faced a global decline in PC sales. The company held on to fourth place with 6.9% laptop market share

Today, research firms disagree about Apple and its future. IDC says Apple has achieved 9.6% year-on-year growth in the second quarter of 2019. Gartner says Apple’s second-quarter Mac shipments were the lowest since 2014.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for this misunderstanding, then look no further than Apple Inc. itself. Since the company stopped reporting unit sales on iPhones, iPads, and Macs at the beginning of fiscal 2019, it has become almost impossible to determine the company’s real market share. 

ASUS

In 2016, ASUSTek Computer held a notebook market share of 10.3% and was the industry’s fourth global superpower. Since ASUS adjusted its product strategy with an aim to reduce the production of models with low profits, however, the brand has experienced a small-scale revenue earthquake. Its place dropped to fifth in 2017 with an international laptop market share of 9.5%. 

The 2018 decline in global shipments affected the company’s market share once again, reducing it to 6%. ASUS, which found an army of grateful users in the gaming niche, makes the bulk of its laptop sales with series like ZenBook, Vivo, Republic of Gamers, and TUF Gaming. 

Although the company ranks well in the Asia-Pacific region, its presence in the US barely makes it in the top six. ASUS is a well-established tech giant in the international market, but American users remain largely unaware of the brand. The company accounted for less than 2% of overall PC market share in 2017. The next year, ASUS sales climbed to 4%. But the company’s momentum seems to have stilled.

According to Gartner’s 2019 analysis, ASUS doesn’t rank among the top 10 largest desktop/laptop vendors in the US market.  

Acer 

Acer has had more success breaking into the US laptop market than ASUS, mostly thanks to its cooperation with Google. Headquartered in Taipei, Taiwan, Acer has expanded aggressively in the Chromebook market, raising global annual shipments by 0.6% in 2017 and scoring a worldwide notebook market share of 8%

Sales dropped in 2018, but the company hung on to a laptop market share of 6.1%, placing it in fifth place among top laptop vendors by the end of the year. 

According to IDC estimates, Acer was one of the few companies that saw a year-on-year decline in 2019’s second quarter. Nevertheless, the Taipei tech wizards continue to perform well on the market. Acer’s traditional strongholds in North America and Japan continue to keep the company afloat by providing the biggest chunk of their revenue. 

Combined Desktop/Laptop Market Share in the US in 2018

  1. HP – 30%
  2. Dell – 24%
  3. Lenovo –  14%
  4. Apple – 12%
  5. Acer – 8%
  6. ASUS – 4%

Global Desktop/Laptop OS Market Share

Now that we’ve gone through the hardware rankings, let’s take a look at the operating systems that run laptops and how they fare on the global market. We’ll look at the leading companies that provide operating software for both desktop and laptop computers. 

Windows market share is strong. Redmond’s flagship operating system commands more than 78% of all desktop/laptop computer market share around the world. This puts Microsoft in a huge lead, with Apple’s macOS garnering just above 14% of the world market. Marginal operating systems like Google’s ChromeOS and Linux rate even lower with a desktop/laptop market share of around 2% each. In 2018, Microsoft made $110.36 billion, an increase of 14.28% compared to 2017.  

Windows 10 remains the most popular OS in the world, accounting for 39.22% of the Windows laptop market share in 2019. Windows 7 comes second, with a share of 33.38%

Apple’s most popular operating system is macOS Mojave, with a market share of 42.5% among Mac users. The second most popular OS hailing from Cupertino, California, is High Sierra, responsible for almost 24% of the desktop/laptop market among Mac users.

While Windows and Apple undoubtedly hold most of the pie, other competitors are finding their way into this highly-monopolized market. 

Google’s Linux-based Chrome operating system has won its place in the US education system fair and square. But Chrome OS is yet to penetrate the world market, currently holding a negligible share in the global laptop market.

Linux remains popular among programmers and other advanced users, holding 1.74 to 2.18% of global desktop/laptop market share. Ubuntu comes on top, followed by Debian.

Laptop Operating System Market Share in the US

In the United States, Windows reigns supreme with about 70% of the market. Apple’s market share is slightly higher in the US than it is globally – about 19.3%. Chrome OS holds a 6.4% share of the US laptop/notebook market. 

Chromebooks reign supreme in K-12 classrooms, claiming about 60% market share in US public schools in 2018. Chrome OS currently serves more than 30 million laptops and tablets, with a large portion of them used by students of all ages.  

Types of Laptops

The main distinction among the types of laptops is whether they are traditional or are they in hybrid laptop/tablet form, colloquially known as “2 in 1.” While traditional models have owned the market for decades, they might be becoming a dying breed. 

Leading laptop trends now indicate that “2 in 1” models are slowly but surely taking over while the traditional laptop and personal computer industry is facing a state of flux when it comes to sales. 

The new “2 in 1” laptops could breathe new life into a market that is struggling to hang on to 1% CAGR between now and 2025.

Hybrid laptops like Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 and HP’s Envy X2 are marketed as balanced options for personal use. By offering both a laptop and a tablet, all in one, they are lightweight, easy to carry, and optimized for long batter life.

Traditional laptops still lead the way in providing more powerful components than their hybrid counterparts, however. A traditional laptop is still king when it comes to providing a powerful processor, lots of storage space, a big screen, and enough memory for big jobs.

Screen Size

The size of the screen determines the laptop size in general. It also changes according to the purpose of a laptop. Models between 15.0 and 16.9 inches tend to have advanced processors and storage options. From video editing to gaming, the largest laptop screen means the laptop is more likely to serve as a no-compromise replacement for a desktop PC.

Companies like ASUS and Acer derive their laptop market share largely from powerful devices featuring i7 and i5 processors optimized for gaming. Besides gaming, these laptops are suitable to replace PCs in corporate cubicles. With their wide screens and powerful performance specs, they are often used to clear space-constrained desktops in order to help maximize productivity. 

Given that wide-screen models encompass such a large group of users, it comes as no surprise that they singlehandedly command more than 50% of total laptop market revenues. According to Grand View Research analysts, these powerful machines are proposed to continue to hold their share through 2025. 

While large-screen models dominate a large portion of the portable personal computer market share, their reduced mobility comes as a serious downside. That is why more traditional laptop screen sizes are so popular on the global market. In fact, the 13-14.9 inch category is projected to achieve the highest compound annual growth rate by 2025, making a significant impact on the overall laptop market in the future. 

Price

Roughly speaking, the lowest price range is below $500, with the most expensive models selling for $2,000 or more. In 2017, the largest share of the laptop market sold for $501 to $1000. It’s easy to see that a well-balanced portable personal computer is what sells best.

Laptops that fall within this price range are also the fastest-growing group in terms of sales volume. with a variety of features and prices, they are poised to reach the largest number of customers by 2025. 

End-Use

End-use refers to the purpose of the device and the user for whom it is intended. Some laptops are robust enough to support complicated tasks such as coding, gaming, and graphic design, while others are more balanced and oriented toward average users. Some high-end laptops are marketed specifically for gaming.

Portable business PCs emphasize reliability, wide-screen displays, low weight, and ruggedness. They’re perfect for making presentations, editing documents, and filling in spreadsheets.

Quality is key when it comes to laptops for business use, as well as a reasonable price, a considerable lifespan, and top-notch security. It basically comes down to HP vs Dell vs Lenovo, for these three vendors traditionally hold the largest computer market shares, especially with business laptops. 

HP laptop market share was the second-largest in 2018. HP has been in the top three since 2006, often landing in first place. In the meantime, Lenovo and Dell, who both hold huge percentages of the global market, have established themselves as some of the most popular laptop brands for business.  

This is especially true if we take a look at the rising trend colloquially known as Bring Your Own Device, which is being adopted by an increasing number of businesses. Instead of using a standard laptop provided by a company, employees bring their own hardware based on their specific preferences. In 2014, the BYOD market in the US was worth around $30 billion. It’s projected to reach almost $367 billion by 2022. 

The concept applies to education as well, especially for students in elementary school who are increasingly using laptops and tablets to fulfill their daily tasks. 

While laptop market share by brand indicates the top three vendors are leading the charge, Apple can always count on brand loyalty to rank in the top five. Although Apple can be seen among businessmen, its traditional target groups are video editors, musicians, photographers, writers, and other creative professionals.

As for gaming, laptops are now picking up where desktop computers left off. By managing to pack excellent overall performance into a small package, the portable personal computer is becoming a dangerous competitor to desktop PCs and gaming consoles alike.

The ASUS gaming laptop market share in India is predicted to top 50% in 2019. The Taiwanese technology giant held 6% of the overall global laptop market share in 2018, with laptops optimized for gaming as its most lucrative asset. Other important players holding significant gaming laptop market share are Razer, MSI, Acer, and Samsung. Manufacturers are working hard to make gaming laptops more affordable.

The gaming laptop market is booming, with projected 22% CAGR between 2017 and 2023. This impressive growth is backed by rising demand among young people as well as the rise of eSports. The market is further bolstered by the development of augmented and virtual reality, which push the limits of what you can do with PC hardware.

Laptop Market Share by Region

North America and Europe account for 50% of the laptop market. Although these regions are traditionally the biggest markets when it comes to laptops, they are forecast to experience a period of decline because these markets are oversaturated with laptop technology. 

Part of the reason these traditionally strong markets are in a period of decline is the fact that laptop technology seems to have reached its full potential in terms of development. Therefore, sales are dropping. Last year’s model is basically as good as this year’s. Technical innovations could change this overnight.

The Asia-Pacific market is experiencing unprecedented growth. With government policies in the region announcing a reduction of import duties imposed on spare parts, there’s only one way for the market to go, and that is up. 

Second, government initiatives such as Make in India, Made in China 2025, and Digital India are poised to boost production and stimulate sales. 

Third, a growing number of direct foreign investments in fields like retail and e-commerce are making laptops more available than ever for users in the Asia-Pacific. 

Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, who have been shy on the global market, are forecast to progress significantly in the near future. As the regions are seeing a rise in disposable income, the population is bound to boost sales on technology in general, including laptops. Governments are following suit, developing policies that allow the digital economy to thrive. 

With some of the countries belonging to these regions still suffering from undeveloped internet infrastructure, it’s only natural to see these markets grow as they expand the grid, putting more people online. 

The Biggest Laptop Manufacturers – A Brief History

In 1975, IBM pioneered the portable computer technology with its 5100 model, instantly launching a race among companies and inventors alike. Computer makers began trying to pack as much power as they could into the smallest possible chassis.  

Eleven years later, in 1986, IBM raised the bar once again. The company’s PC Convertible set the industry standard, introducing the 3½-inch floppy disk format and reducing the weight of a portable computer to 13 pounds.

A year later, Hewlett-Packard joined in the race by releasing the Vectra, and the game was on.

New players emerged, only to fall down in the next decade or so. Reducing size and weight was paramount. Every PC maker in the laptop market knew what they needed to achieve in order to join the company of top PC brands - reduce weight, add power, market an attractive design. 

Then Apple came out with Macintosh Portable in 1989, planting the seeds of a vision that was destined to become the company’s trademark.

Apple’s portable did not fare well in the early days of laptops. This was mainly due to its steep price: $6,500. Nevertheless, the company’s uncompromising attitude would eventually earn them respect – and sales.

While a number of other companies tried to grab their piece of the laptop market share, IBM (the laptops now made and sold by Lenvova), HP, and Apple remain the leading players. Joined by Dell in the early 1990s, they kept growing, launching model after model, reducing size and boosting power.  

Together with ASUS and Acer, they took control of the world stage when it comes to sales on laptops, earning billions of dollars each year. 

FAQ

Who is the biggest laptop manufacturer?

Lenovo and HP hold the biggest market share. In 2017, HP accounted for 24.3% of global laptop market share, ranking first. However, in 2018, Lenovo took over with a market share of 22.5%. 

What is Apple’s market share of computers?

In 2018, Apple achieved a global desktop/laptop market share of 9.6% and ranked fourth behind Lenovo, HP, and Dell. In the United States, Apple accounts for 12.7% of the PC market. 

Which laptop brand is the most reliable?

Apple. According to Consumer Reports, Apple has the lowest rate of malfunction in the first two years of usage at 10%.  

Which laptops last longest?

Lenovo ThinkPad T480, HP Envy x2, and Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 are the top three laptops with longest-lasting batteries on the market. 

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