Global PC market records first full year of growth since 2011

Lenovo, Dell, and HP dominated Canalys' study of the PC market, accounting for more than two-thirds of all shipments in 2019.

The PC market had a great 2019 according to a new study from researchers at independent analyst company Canalys. The company's latest research shows that 2019 was the first time in eight years that the global PC market recorded a full year of growth. The number of units shipped in 2019 was 2.7% higher than figures from 2018.

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The report also highlights the domination of the worldwide PC market by the three biggest companies in the space: Lenovo, HP, and Dell. The three hardware giants accounted for 174.3 million of the 268.1 million units that were shipped in 2019. The sales seen by the three companies represented two-thirds of all desktops, notebooks, and workstations sold last year.

"PCs had a decent holiday quarter. This is impressive given the market registered record growth in Q3. Despite supply chain issues, vendors remain bullish, especially in commercial," said Ishan Dutt, Canalys analyst. 

"Intel's continued efforts to improve supply will help maintain volume in 2020, but constraints are unlikely to ease quickly. The upshot, however, is the upgrade opportunities OEMs have with SMBs who have delayed refreshes in anticipation of new chipsets."

Outside of the top three, Apple and Acer took the next spots, but Acer was the only country at the top that saw a decline in sales compared to 2018. 

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Despite an economic slowdown and a latent trade war with China, the United States managed to keep its PC market growing at a 7% year-on-year rate, with nearly 18 million units sold in the fourth quarter of 2019.

PC retailers saw particularly large gains in the US market for the last quarter thanks to a profitable holiday season, but the Canalys report did express some concern about how the impending Brexit would affect the European market. Overall, PC shipments in Europe saw a 2% bump last year.

The study contains predictions that questions whether Brexit's confirmed date of January 31 will provide some certainty to the PC market. PC retailers, in an effort to get ahead of potential thorny distribution delays, may stock up and build inventory as the end of January approaches. 

"2020 is unlikely to repeat the success of 2019. Macroeconomic factors continue to influence the PC industry heavily, as key markets like the US, Japan, and India are expected to under-perform, for the major part of the year," said Rushabh Doshi, Canalys' research director.

"Adding uncertainty to the market is a possible disruption to HP, which continues to be the target of a hostile takeover by Xerox."

Despite the fears of a downturn in the market for PCs, the Canalys report says there is hope that the emergence of 5G technology in the coming years may bring the PC market back as retailers upgrade machines and add new capabilities. 

"5G and foldable displays will bring some excitement to otherwise iterative upgrades. However, vendors remain in an experimental phase for both these features. Foldables suffer from a serious lack of use-cases, and demand is unlikely to grow unless second or third-generation devices can prove durability," Doshi said. 

"5G on the other hand, needs ecosystem readiness from network operators and cloud providers to justify the value offering of these devices. Mainstream adoption of 5G and foldable displays is still a good two to three years away."

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