The PC industry enjoyed its best quarter in 10 years, though ironically its good fortune was a side effect of the COVID-19 outbreak.
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For the third-quarter of 2020, PC shipments soared by 12.7% from the same quarter last year, hitting 79.2 million units, market research firm Canalys said on Friday. This was the biggest quarterly gain seen by the industry in a decade. The stellar results followed a weak first quarter, which led to a recovery in the second quarter that continued on into last quarter.
The major trigger for the ongoing growth is the coronavirus. As a second wave of COVID-19 infections spread across many countries, more businesses invested in remote working for the longer haul. As such, shipments of notebooks and mobile computers skyrocketed last quarter by 28.3% to 64 million, almost touching the record high of 64.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. On the downside, though, shipments of desktop computers plummeted by 26%.
“Vendors, the supply chain, and the channel have now had time to find their feet and allocate resources towards supplying notebooks, which continue to see massive demand from both businesses and consumers,” Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said in a press release. “After prioritizing high-value markets and large customers in Q2, vendors have now been able to turn their attention to supplying a wider range of countries as well as SMBs that faced difficulty securing devices earlier this year.”
Governments also stepped in to help organizations with financial support or even device deployments, Dutt added. This support was especially critical in the educational sector as many schools were forced to commence last quarter without physical classrooms open for students. As one example, the UK government made 100,000 notebooks available so that remote students would be able to start or resume their education.
Among the major PC vendors, Lenovo took back the top spot from HP, with shipments of 19.2 million and growth of 11.4%. In second place, HP shipped 18.7 million computers to achieve a growth rate of 11.9%. In third place, Dell saw its PC shipments drop by half a percentage point. Apple came in fourth with a growth rate of 13.2%, followed by Acer with growth of 15% for the quarter.
Looking ahead, Canalys expects consumer spending during the holiday season to benefit the PC market even further. Beyond this year, the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting effect on how people work and learn. To provide the necessary equipment for a remote population, PC vendors will need to focus on certain key features.
“As the line between work and home lives is increasingly blurred, it becomes important to position devices towards a wide array of use cases, with a focus on mobility, connectivity, battery life, and display and audio quality,” Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi said in a press release. “Differentiation in product portfolios to capture key segments such as education and mainstream gaming will also provide pockets of growth.”
Further, remote PC buyers and users will increasingly require complementary features, such as security and collaboration tools and subscriptions. PC vendors who can bundle such services into their offerings stand to benefit the most from this need, according to Doshi.