A global shipment for PC notebooks reached a record high of 55.8 million units in the second quarter of 2020. The average shipment in previous second quarters had been about 40 million units; and exceeded 200 million units for the year, an annual increase of 24.5 percent. This mammoth demand has had a double-edged effect, buoying the bottom lines of some firms in the notebook supply chain; while at the same time causing shipment delay, pushing production capacity to the limit.
Analyst Stan Shen said, “The notebook industry also faced an escalating shortage of components; including mostly semiconductors, because component suppliers’ capacity expansion activities were outpaced by the growing demand. The ongoing component shortage has forced some brands to not only delay their release of new products but also limit their shipment volumes; thereby weakening their shipment performance despite high market demand.”
Now a shortage of key semiconductor-based notebook components due to inadequate capacity at 8-inch fabs has prevailed; since the third quarter of last year. But the problem predates the pandemic; having been instituted since the US-China technology war. That very situation saw orders transferred from China to Taiwan; and pushed some fabs to maximum output levels. Shen added that “notebook shipments for the first quarter of 2021 became the highest among all first-quarter shipments in the past 10 years.”
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Analysts confirmed the working situation at the annual Taiwan Conference. They said that while demand was strong for companies in PC supply chains, inventories were just two to three weeks; well below the normal six to eight weeks. Shipments are lagging market demand by 20-30 percent, the bank said. The ongoing component shortage has also forced some PC brands to delay the launch of new products.
Taipei-based research firm DigiTimes beams a little hope; saying the ongoing shortage of notebook-use chips, panels, and other components. And is expected to improve greatly in the fourth quarter; however not any earlier. Driving the improvement will be an increase in semiconductor capacity; and the pandemic being brought under control.