How we learned to love our PCs again

Strong consumer demand sees highest global PC market growth in a decade.

Worldwide PC shipments totalled 79.4 million units in the fourth quarter of last year, according to Gartner, a 10.7% increase from the corresponding quarter of 2019. Its preliminary findings show that total shipments reached 275 million units in 2020, an increase of 4.8% over 2019, the highest growth it’s seen in a decade. IDC, for its part, said shipments for the quarter were at 91.6 million, representing a 26.1% increase over the year before.

Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said sales had been driven by robust consumer demand, particularly in those countries in which lockdowns were implemented. She said that prior to 2020, consumers had been shifting to a ‘phone-first’ focus, but the pandemic had reversed this trend.

Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner
“PCs have resurfaced as an essential device as consumers, including younger children, are relying on them for work, school, socialising and entertainment from their homes.”

Business PC spending was also weaker for the quarter because most of the buying had already been done earlier in the year. In regions where economic recovery was now taking place, such as China, business PC growth was stronger, said Kitagawa.

Gartner doesn’t include Chromebook shipments in its traditional PC market results, but said the fourth quarter showed remarkable growth. Shipments increased by around 200% year-on year, reaching about 11.7 million units, driven largely by the US education market.

Lenovo is also continuing to widen its lead over HP, while Apple, Acer and Asus also gained market share.

Total PC shipments in EMEA reached 23 million units in Q4, an increase of 6.9% year-on-year, while Asia Pacific reached 25 million units, an 8.3% year-on-year growth. Consumer demand in both regions was particularly strong, said Kitagawa.

The PC market in the US, meanwhile, saw its highest growth in 20 years (20.6%), despite economic and political disruption. Although many states didn’t enforce lockdowns until December, most consumers largely avoided travel and many schools were either closed or ran hybrid online classes. Consumer spending had thus moved to items that could enhance life at home, including PCs. HP secured the top spot in the US market, with 28% market share. Dell followed at 25.2%.

She said that despite some supply chain issues at the beginning of 2020, the pandemic, as well consistent consumer demand, had created tremendous growth opportunities for the PC market in the year.

“This momentum is likely to continue through at least the first half of 2021, but it remains to be seen if it will sustain in the post-pandemic era as it will depend on the permanency of the changes driving demand.”

She added that online education may continue even after educational institutions open, consumers may still buy their groceries online, and more employees may continue to work from home.

“If these scenarios persist, then PCs will return to consumers’ daily lives as an essential device.”
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