Notebook Penetration – Now in the Middle of Mobility
Notebooks have continued their long march into widespread use, fueled by the desire to be able to get things done regardless of location. The years-long drive towards mobility continues. However, users have shown that notebooks are not their only choice to support their mobility fix. Even while notebooks have continued to be made thinner, lighter, faster, and less expensive, users have adopted other mobile devices. Smartphones have reached around 85% of online adults in the US, Germany, and the UK, surpassing notebook penetration.
Users have not embraced smartphones as a full substitute for notebooks, continuing to prefer certain activities using their notebooks or desktops. However, over the last five years, users have migrated many of their regular activities from PCs to smartphones, one by one and unceasingly.
Nor have users adopted tablets as notebook substitutes. Several years ago, tablets posed a growing challenge, although have since seen reduced active market penetration. Part of this decline has been due to users choosing to use fewer devices as they simplify their lives. Another dampening factor has been by carriers giving less attention to tablets. Since most users choose tablets connected through Wi-Fi over built-in cellular connections (with additional subscriptions), carriers have less interest in promoting them.
MacBooks With Time On Their Side
Apple has the future in its favor – to the extent it can build, broaden, and maintain loyalty among its existing base. The penetration of Apple MacBooks is skewed towards younger adults, which bodes well for the brand’s future. However, continued loyalty as users age is not guaranteed. Historically, as the youngest users enter the workforce, they adopt their employer’s technology brand standards and, in many cases, bring those home.
Users of Microsoft Windows notebooks still outnumber MacBook users across the surveyed geographies and age groups. The age skew in the US and UK is tilted towards the middle range of ages, as older adults have higher penetration of desktop PCs.
Among the youngest adults – age 18 to 24 – penetration of Windows notebooks and MacBooks is almost equal.
Chromebooks, meanwhile, are only barely registering across all age groups.
Notebooks for Industry
Among employees, Apple’ MacBooks have a long way to go to match the broad penetration of Windows notebooks. Across four broad industry groups in four countries, Windows notebooks out-penetrate MacBooks substantially – from three to one to as high as ten to one.
Chromebooks barely register in the active installed base of employer-provided notebooks.
Across most organizations, especially larger ones, standardization is a key method to simplify support, smooth the workflow, decrease costs, and increase security. Also, most larger organizations are served by enterprise sales forces and systems integrators that typically focus on volume purchase agreements, high quantity installations, and vertical integration. These initiatives typically have less input about brand choices from end-users.
With the COVID pandemic, many users suddenly working from home are getting their work done using their personal PCs. Many employers have not provided computers to homebound employees, as companies weigh their future options. The choices they face are not only about their technology products and services, but also about real estate, employment levels, risk management, finances, and even their own corporate viability. Although conditions are extremely fluid, this means that for now, more employees than ever have a greater say in their choice of computing device.
Pent-up Demand – Purchase Plans
Notebook users are showing strong plans to purchase another notebook. One in three American Windows notebook users plan to acquire a notebook in the next 12 months. MacBook users have the strongest purchase plans to buy a new personal notebook in the coming year, stronger than among users of Windows notebooks in all countries surveyed. Apple’s historical repurchase loyalty is a positive indicator supporting Apple among its customers. Additionally, Apple’s recent release of its newest MacBooks may entice more repeat buyers. Although much of the launch’s emphasis was on the speed of Apple’s own internal silicon, the broader base of less-technical buyers will likely resonate with Apple’s assurances of app compatibility.
Apple has something else going for it – ecosystem loyalty. This shows up in many ways, one being the positive association between iPhone and MacBook use, and negative association between Android and non-MacBook use. Current iPhone users use MacBooks at a higher rate – and Windows notebooks at a lower rate – than users of Android smartphones. The level of integration between MacBooks and iPhones is tighter than between Windows notebooks and either iPhones or Android smartphones. However, the integration is not so tight as to be restrictive, which is important since a substantial share of iPhone users use non-Apple notebooks.
Similarly, Chromebooks are more likely to be used by Android smartphone users than by iPhone users. Market penetration is small overall, but still there is a positive association.
While many PC makers may not focus on the other non-PC technology devices users use, this sort of divide highlights the importance of a complete understanding.
The information in this TUPdate is based on the most recent wave of the MetaFacts TUP/Technology User Profile study, its 2020 wave, the 38th annual wave. Where noted, results are drawn from previous versions. This TUPdate is focused on the US, and comparable information results are available from the UK, Germany, and Japan.
On request, interested research professionals can receive complimentary updates through our periodic newsletter. These include MetaFAQs – brief answers to frequently asked questions – or TUPdates – analysis of current topics in the technology industry. To learn about subscribing to the TUP/Technology User Profile service, contact MetaFacts.