Gartner: US Tariffs on China Could Significantly Drive up Laptop Prices

Credit: Igor Kardasov/ShutterstockCredit: Igor Kardasov/Shutterstock

The PC market is facing "uncertainty" from U.S. tariffs on China-manufactured goods, according to Gartner. The research firm said yesterday that shipments grew 1.5% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2019 after two quarters of decline. That resurgence might be short-lived, however, if the trade conflict between the U.S. and China isn't resolved.

Gartner said that shipments rose from 62 million units in the 2Q18 to nearly 63 million units in 2Q19. Those figures include desktop PCs, notebooks and "ultramobile premiums," such as the Microsoft Surface. Chromebooks and iPads aren't counted; their sales are tracked elsewhere.

"Worldwide PC shipments growth was driven by demand from the Windows 10 refresh in the business market in the second quarter of 2019," Gartner senior principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a statement. "Desktop PC growth was strong, which offset a decline in mobile PC shipments."

Looking forward, however, Gartner noted that U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports might expand to laptops and tablets if the countries fail to resolve their ongoing trade dispute. 

“While the U.S.-China trade war did not impact the PC market in 2Q19, the next phase of tariffs could have significant impact. Most laptops and tablets are currently manufactured in China, and sales of these devices in the U.S. could face significant price increases if the punitive tariffs are imposed and vendors do not take quick action to respond," Kitagawa said.

Some manufacturers have already responded to these concerns by looking to shift production of U.S.-bound goods to factories in Southeast Asia. That isn't an easy switch to make, though, and the uncertainty surrounding the situation makes it hard for companies to know what to do. 

Kitagawa also said that Intel's year-and-a-half-long CPU shortage is finally easing. That should allow smaller manufacturers to compete with their larger counterparts, which saw their market share rise from 60.7% to 64.1% year-over-year because of the shortage.