Global PC shipment growth drops as supply fails to meet demand

After five quarters of double-digit gains, the PC market grew by just 5% last quarter as vendors struggled to fulfill an order backlog, Canalys says.

Windows 10 computer

Image: Sompetch Khanakornpratip/Shutterstock

Global PC shipments scored another gain last quarter, but growth was on the weak side compared with the past several quarters. On Monday, research firm Canalys pegged third-quarter shipments at 84.1 million, a gain of just 5% from the same quarter in 2020. That represented a downturn from the 13% growth seen a year ago and a return to single-digit gains following five quarters of healthier results.

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Canalys blamed the decline on the inability of vendors and channel partners to fulfill a persistent backlog of orders.

"Disruption to the global supply chain and logistics network remains the key inhibitor of higher growth in the PC market," Canalys senior analyst Ishan Dutt said in a press release. "More than a year on from the onset of the pandemic, manufacturing continues to be hindered by lockdowns and other COVID-19 related restrictions, particularly in Asia. This has been compounded by a massive slowdown in global transportation with freight prices and delay times skyrocketing as a number of industries compete to meet unfulfilled demand."

Shipments of notebooks and mobile workstations took the biggest hit, growing just 3% from a year ago to reach 68.4 million. Shipments of desktops and desktop workstations were in better shape, rising by 12% to 16.6 million. Despite the drop in growth, PC volumes are still at a high level thanks to how well the market did in the third quarter of 2020. The overall industry has seen a healthy two-year compound annual growth rate of 9% from the third quarter of 2019.

Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Acer were the top five PC vendors for the quarter. Among these, Lenovo took the top spot with shipments of 19.8 million units, a small gain of 2.5%. In second place, HP was the only vendor to see a decrease with shipments falling by 5.7% due to a drop in Chromebook shipments in the U.S.

Third-place Dell enjoyed the biggest growth rate with a gain of 26.7% and more than 15 million PCs shipped. Apple's third-quarter gain was the second best with growth of 14.4%, while Acer saw its shipments rise by 5.7%.

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Image: Canalys

Gazing into 2022, vendors will continue to struggle to keep up with demand. A large portion of orders are likely to go unfilled during the 2021 holiday season, Dutt said. But PC vendors that can diversify their production and distribution and provide better visibility into fulfilling orders will be better able to weather the storm.

Plus, specific opportunities exist for companies able to capitalize on them, according to Canalys Research Director Rushabh Doshi. The hybrid work environment will require vendors to outfit their products with faster processors, better cameras and more ubiquitous connectivity.

"SMBs and enterprises are also likely to focus on ease of procurement, security and device management as they move to sustain these new policies for the long term," Doshi said. "Adding to this, PC demand is expected to be robust from SMBs as various industries race to make up for lost time, and consumer spending shifts onto categories that were otherwise restricted during the lockdown, mainly tourism and travel."

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