PC Shipments Return To Pre-Pandemic Levels In First Quarter

PC shipments returned roughly to pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first quarter of 2024, growing 1.5 percent year-on-year to 59.8 million units shipped, largely due to increasing interest in systems with added artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, research firm IDC said.

The company said growth came largely from comparisons to a period of steep declines, with the market declining 28.7 percent year-on-year in the comparable period in 2023.

A surge in sales of consumer electronics during Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns was followed in 2022 and 2023 by stagnation across a number of sectors, and IDC called the period “the lowest point in PC history”.

It noted that first-quarter PC shipments were not far off those of the first quarter of 2019, when 60.5 million units shipped.

Image credit: Pexels

Recovery

The figures cover desktops, notebooks and workstations, but not tablets or x86 servers.

Shipments received a boost from a declining trend in inflation figures, with growth in the Americas and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, although deflation in China added to downward pressure on desktop PCs.

China is the world’s biggest market for desktop PCs, and weak demand in the country led to another quarter of declines for the form factor, which was already pressured by a shift to notebooks.

“Despite China’s struggles, the recovery is expected to continue in 2024 as newer AI PCs hit shelves later this year and as commercial buyers begin refreshing the PCs that were purchased during the pandemic,” said IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani.

AI PCs

“Along with growth in shipments, AI PCs are also expected to carry higher price tags, providing further opportunity for PC and component makers.”

The emerging AI PC category pairs a conventional CPU and GPU with a neural processing unit (NPU) capable of handling specialised AI workloads such as on-device large language model (LLM) processing.

The first generation of such devices was powered by AMD’s Ryzen 7040, with Intel’s Core Ultra released at the beginning of this year and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X on the way later in 2024.

Lenovo, HP, Dell and others have begun hawking Windows AI PCs, while Apple has begun highlighting the AI capabilities of its in-house M-series chips and has said it will make a major AI announcement later this year.

Lenovo in top spot

The AI PC category is expected to double in growth this year and again in 2025 to take 43 percent of total shipments, rising to nearly 60 percent by 2027, IDC said in a previous report.

Lenovo maintained its top spot for PC shipments, growing 7.8 million year-over-year to 13.7 million, outgrowing the market largely due to steep declines it experienced in the first quarter of 2023.

Apple showed even stronger growth, with a 14.6 percent surge to 4.8 million units, again due to steep declines the previous year.

Apple ranked No. 4 on the list, after Lenovo, HP and Dell, and was followed by Acer and Asus in a statistical tie for fifth-place.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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