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PC market hits all time high, driven by pandemic-related buying

By Catherine Knowles, Tue 12 Jan 2021

The global PC market has experienced its biggest growth in a decade despite challenges, thanks to continued consumer demand.

According to Gartner, worldwide PC shipments totaled 79.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 10.7% increase from the fourth quarter of 2019.

For the year, PC shipments reached 275 million units in 2020, a 4.8% increase from 2019 and the highest growth in ten years.

The top three vendors in the worldwide PC market remained unchanged from the previous quarter, although Lenovo continued to widen its lead over HP.

Reflecting the trend seen throughout 2020, consumer-oriented vendors such as Apple, Acer and Asus gained market share.

Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa says, “The worldwide PC market saw a strong finish to 2020, recording a third consecutive quarter of year over year growth, although there continued to be supply shortages due to this high demand.

“Robust consumer PC demand again drove sales, particularly in regions where governments maintain stay-at-home orders as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

"Prior to 2020, consumers had been shifting to a phone-first focus, yet the pandemic reversed this trend. PCs have resurfaced as an essential device as consumers, including younger children, are relying on them for work, school, socialising and being entertained from their homes.”

Kitagawa says, “Business PC spending was again weaker this quarter, as the urgent purchases for remote work peaked earlier in the year.

"However, in certain regions like China where economic recovery from the pandemic has already begun, business growth was slightly stronger.”

While Gartner does not include Chromebook shipments in its traditional PC market results, the fourth quarter of 2020 was another remarkable period of growth for Chromebooks, with shipments increasing around 200% year over year to reach 11.7 million units.

In 2020, Chromebook shipments increased over 80% to total nearly 30 million units, largely due to demand from the North American education market, the analysts state.

When it comes to regions, total PC shipments in Asia Pacific reached 25 million units, an 8.3% year over year growth.

Consumer demand in Asia Pacific countries was particularly strong when compared to the global market, Gartner states.

Stabilised business PC spending due to China’s economic recovery also helped drive the strong growth in Asia Pacific.

Kitagawa says, “This momentum is likely to continue through at least the first half of 2021, but it remains to be seen if it will sustain in the post-pandemic era as it will depend on the permanency of the changes driving demand.

“For instance, online education may continue even after schools open, consumers may still buy groceries online, and some businesses may continue full- or part-time remote work.

"If these scenarios persist, then PCs will return to consumers’ daily lives as an essential device.”

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