PC Sales Reach Highest Level Since 2012, Says IDC

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Shipments of PCs (desktops, laptops, workstations etc) experience growth streak during the past year, despite ongoing chip shortage

Worldwide shipments of traditional PCs (desktops, laptops, workstations etc) continue to grow, with a huge increase in sales during the year of 2021.

This is according to the latest shipment data from analyst house IDC, which found that PC sales are back to 2012 levels, up 34 percent from their low point in 2017.

And IDC said that if it were not for the “challenging logistical environment, coupled with ongoing supply-side shortages”, PC shipments could “have been even larger than it was in 2021.”

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Shipment figures

And that is not to say that 2021 was not an impressive year for PC sales. Far from it.

IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker index found that total PC shipments during 2021 reached 348.8 million units, up 14.8 percent from 2020. This represents the highest level of shipments the PC market has seen since 2012.

IDC also found that worldwide shipments of PCs reached 92.7 million units during the fourth quarter of 2021 (4Q21), marking 1.0 percent growth over the same quarter in 2020.

“2021 has truly been a return to form for the PC,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC’s Mobile and Consumer Device Trackers.

“Consumer need for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter with supply being a gating factor.”

“While consumer and educational demand has tapered in some developed markets, we continue to believe the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the pandemic.” Ubrani concluded.

Supply chain

IDC also addressed the ongoing chip shortage facing much of the world, caused in part by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the global supply chain, but also a problematic drought in Taiwan that hampered chip production.

“A challenging logistical environment, coupled with ongoing supply-side shortages, meant that the PC market could have been even larger than it was in 2021,”said Tom Mainelli, group vice president of IDC’s Device and Consumer Research.

“We closed the year with many buyers still waiting for their PC orders to ship,” noted Mainelli. “As we move through the first half of the year, we expect supply to remain constrained, especially with regards to the commercial segment where demand is the most robust.”

The IDC data is noteworthy considering that the PC sector has been partly ignored for years, as focus turned more towards shipments of smartphones as the key performance indicator of the electronics industry.

There is little doubt that the PC industry has been reinvigorated by lockdowns around the world, as populations took shelter in their homes to shield them from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has resulted in many households resorting to remote or flexible working, coupled with children often being forced to attend virtual school classes and remote learning.

Leading players

The IDC data also revealed who remains the biggest players in the PC sector.

The six largest PC companies by number of units shipped in 2021 were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer, the IDC data revealed.

Microsoft’s Windows operating system is still the industry goliath and is used on the vast majority of PCs.

However separate data suggests sales of Windows 11 remains sluggish (see separate article).

Indeed, despite Satya Nadella’s focus on cloud services in recent years, the Windows business still remains a sizeable operation for Redmond, and generated $5.68 billion in sales in the third quarter, an increase of 10 percent from a year earlier.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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