The shift to remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has driven sales of tablets and Chromebooks to record highs.
According to researcher IDC, 14.6 million tablets were shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in Q4 2020, an increase of 11.7% compared to the previous year.
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A total of 1.1 million units were destined for the education sector alone – the highest volume ever recorded by the sector. Attempts to keep kids in education while schools remain closed against COVID-19 have seen unprecedented rollouts of home-learning equipment.
The UK’s Get Help with Technology programme, for example, aims to equip some 1.3 million disadvantaged school children with laptops, tablets and internet connectivity so they can participate in remote education.
Similar online schooling and digitalization efforts are underway across EMEA, including Germany, Romania, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and South Africa.
Helena Ferreira, research analyst at IDC, said these remote-learning projects were generating “significant tablet deployments” across the region.
“The education sector has also been directly boosting shipments in the consumer segment, as some government initiatives, particularly in Mediterranean countries such as Greece or Italy, take the form of vouchers that are issued to students to subsidize the purchase of devices,” Ferreira said.
“Shortages and price increases in notebooks are urging consumers to shift their focus to tablets as lockdowns and stay at home measures remained in place.”
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Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) saw the most significant growth in tablet shipments, increasing 32.3% year-on-year (YoY), while the Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew by 10.3%.
The Western European market, despite slowing, achieved growth of 7.7% YoY, IDC said.
Samsung held first position in EMEA, shipping more than four million devices in Q4, which IDC said was helped by its presence in digitalization projects in schools in CEE countries.
Apple occupied second place, shipping more than 3.5m iPads in Q4, followed by Lenovo (2.6m), which was able to “take advantage of its affordable portfolio that ends up being sought by the public and private sectors, with education being the driver.”
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Demand for Chromebooks has also shot through the roof since schools defaulted to remote learning.
According to the latest figures from Canalys, Chromebook shipments reached 11.2 million units in Q4 2020, a massive 287% increase over Q4 2019. This took the full-year total for Chromebook sales in 2020 to 30.6 million units.
The market nearly quadrupled in size in Q4 alone. HP continued to lead the pack with 3.5 million units shipped, up 235% YoY. Lenovo came second in the Chromebook market, managing to achieve 1766% YoY growth in Q4 after massively ramping-up production, hitting 2.8 million units. Acer and Dell also maintained their spots in Q4, with each shipping around 1.5 million units.
Rushabh Doshi, Canalys research director, said: “With many countries being forced to accelerate their digital education plans in the wake of additional lockdowns, schools and universities are clamoring for easy to deploy solutions and Google’s digital offerings for education are proving quite popular over rival platforms, especially in the US and Western Europe.”
Google seems to be aware of its impact on remote learning. The company recently pushed updates to Chrome OS designed to stabilize Google Meet and Zoom video calls for Chromebook users.