Coronavirus lockdowns boosted the need for mobile computers, according to research firms Gartner, Canalys, and IDC.
Strong, pent-up demand for mobile PCs and a better stocked supply chain helped the PC industry rebound last quarter after a dour first quarter. Reports released Thursday by Gartner and IDC, and one on Friday by Canalys, pointed to a healthy gain in computer shipments in the second quarter, albeit one that may not last, especially if the world heads toward a deeper economic downturn.
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The actual numbers differed among the three research firms. Canalys saw global PC shipments reaching 72.9 million for the second quarter, a gain of 9% from the same quarter in 2019. IDC's estimate wasn't far off from that, pegging shipments at 72.3 million, up 11.2% from the prior year's quarter. But Gartner reported shipments of 64.8 million, a mere 2.8% increase.
The differences between Gartner's numbers and those of Canalys and IDC can be explained in one word: Chromebooks. Canalys and IDC include them in their research; Gartner does not. This factor alone shows that shipments of Chromebooks made a significant impact in the second-quarter results.
Beyond strong Chromebooks sales, last quarter also benefited from pent-up demand for PCs in general, most notably notebooks. As more organizations instituted coronavirus lockdowns, and people were forced to shelter and work at home, the need for mobile PCs increased. At the same time, PC vendors resolved the supply chain issues that hampered them during the first quarter, therefore, supply was better able to meet demand.
"The second quarter of 2020 represented a short-term recovery for the worldwide PC market, led by exceptionally strong growth in EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa)," Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said in a press release. "After the PC supply chain was severely disrupted in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the growth this quarter was due to distributors and retail channels restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels. Additionally, mobile PC growth was particularly strong, driven by several factors including business continuity for remote working, online education, and consumers' entertainment needs."
On a regional basis, EMEA led the world with 20%+ growth in PC shipments as the requirements for remote work and online education surged due to the impact of COVID-19. The US also saw a double-digit jump in shipments, according to Canalys and IDC, thanks to an increase in available inventory and record demand due to the lockdown.
"These markets [US and EMEA] were well equipped to handle large transitions to remote work and learning and will see these trends extend beyond the end of the COVID-19 pandemic," Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said in a press release. "Additionally, the easing of lockdown restrictions led to a bump in employment and business activity in Q2. The extent of the PC market rebound in Q2 in these regions means shipments in the first half of 2020 were higher than they were at the same point last year."
Among PC vendors, HP narrowly surpassed Lenovo to lead the charts. HP shipped around 18 million PCs to grab a 25% market share, according to Canalys and IDC. In second place, Lenovo shipped around 17 million computers, snagging a 24% slice of the market. Dell, Apple, and Acer followed on the list of the top five worldwide vendors.
Gazing into the future, the strong showing in the second quarter may not continue much longer, especially as budgets drop amid an economic slowdown.
"What remains to be seen is if this demand and high level of usage continues during a recession and into the post-COVID world since budgets are shrinking while schools and workplaces reopen," Linn Huang, research vice president for devices and displays at IDC, said in a press release. "Early indicators suggest strong PC shipments for education, enterprise, and consumers, muted somewhat by frozen SMBs. With inventory still back ordered, this goodwill will continue into July. However, as we head deeper into a global recession, the goodwill sentiment will increasingly sour."
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