Worldwide PC shipments end 2020 with biggest surge in 10 years

The shift toward remote working and remote learning helped the PC industry capture its largest growth in shipments since 2010.

work from home. people making video conference with colleague via laptop computer during home quarantine to avoid spreading illness transmission of COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. Social distancing

Image: asiandelight, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The computer industry closed out 2020 with its greatest gain in a decade, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by research firms IDC and Canalys.

SEE: 3 ways to help your team stay connected while WFH  (TechRepublic) 

Global PC shipments jumped by 26.1% last quarter compared with the final quarter of 2019, hitting a total of 91.6 million units, IDC said. The numbers from Canalys were close, pointing to growth of 25% last quarter with shipments reaching 90.3 million units.

For the full year, shipments grew by 13.1% to reach 302.6 million, according to IDC, and by 11% to hit 297 million, according to Canalys. Both firms included desktops, notebooks, and workstations in their analyses. The last time the industry saw these types of gains was in 2010 when shipments rose by 13.7%, IDC reported.

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Image: Canalys

The PC industry was one of the notable beneficiaries of the COVID-19 lockdowns. As people were forced to work from and stay at home, and as students transitioned to remote learning, computer demand shot up.

However, most of the gains came from the need for notebooks and mobile workstations, Canalys said. Shipments of mobile computers jumped by 44% in 2020 from 2019 to reach 235.1 million units. At the same time, shipments of desktop and desktop workstations fell by 20% to 61.9 million units.

"The obvious drivers for last year's growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked," Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, said in a press release. "We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs, and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market. In retrospect, the pandemic not only fueled PC market demand but also created opportunities that resulted in a market expansion."

Still, the industry struggled to keep pace with the tremendous demand. PC and device makers were forced to deal with component and production capacity shortages, according to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers. Further, logistics proved to be a challenge as vendors had to pay more for air freight just to meet promised delivery times.

For the quarter and the full year, Lenovo held onto its spot as the top vendor, followed by HP, Dell, Apple, and Acer. For the year, Lenovo pulled in shipments of 72.6 million, according to both IDC and Canalys, giving it a market share of 24%. HP's annual shipments reached 67.6 million, earning it a share of around 22%.

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Image: IDC

And what is the forecast for this new year? PC vendors will continue to innovate to try to outshine the competition and woo customers. At the same time, supply constraints will still vex the industry, at least for the first half of 2021.

"Innovations in chipsets, operating systems, connectivity, and form factors will take center stage as the PC industry caters to a broader range of customers that bring with them new behaviors and use cases," Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said in a press release. 

"From Apple and Microsoft's new custom silicon to the exciting platform updates to Chrome and Windows, the PC industry is moving at breakneck speed to cater to its newfound user base. While supply shortages continue to dampen the market in the short term, Canalys believes most wrinkles will be ironed out by the second half of 2021."

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