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PC market enjoying a revival

Shipments tracked by Canalys in 2020 were the highest for a decade as users embraced notebooks and mobile workstations

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of cloud, collaboration tools and applications that support home working – but it has also breathed life back into the PC market, giving that category its best performance for a decade in 2020.

The shift to home working last March led to a scramble for laptops, with inventory across the UK being cleared out in just a couple of weeks at the height of the move home, and the need for many to remain at home has led to increased investment in PC hardware and supported decent sales.

Canalys heralded the revival of the hardware world last October at its Channel Forum event, and has followed that up with its conclusions about the strength of the fourth quarter of 2020.

Shipments of desktops, notebooks and workstations increased by 25% from a year ago to reach a record 90.3 million units.

For the entire year, total PC shipments increased by 11%, hitting 297 million units. This is the highest annual growth since 2010, with notebooks and mobile workstations driving that performance, and shipments of those devices climbing by 40% year-on-year. Desktops, largely left gathering dust in shuttered offices, were not as popular a format, and over past year shipments fell by 20%.

“The industry deserves all the success that has come its way,” said Rushabh Doshi, Canalys research director. “We would be in a very different position had it not been for the commitment of the PC industry, including the vendors, the supply chain and the distribution channel, to make sure that every bit of market demand was met.

“The digital transformation the world has undertaken over the past year is unparalleled, and PCs were at the heart of this change,” he said. “As the world readies itself to get vaccinated and overcome the Covid-19 virus, it is important to remember that PCs have played a vital role at every stage of this fight, from understanding the virus and synthesising the vaccine, to social monitoring and vaccine roll-out.”

Lenovo leading the way

In terms of vendors, Lenovo led the way with 29.1% annual growth and 25.5% market share in Q4, followed by HP (21.2% market share) and Dell (17.5%).

With the UK and other European countries having gone back into lockdown and tightened restrictions coming in again, the need for people to remain at home is continuing, and the prospects for the PC segment remain favourable.

Doshi said that the industry gloomsters, who like to dismiss the PC world as one in a decaying orbit, will struggle to continue that narrative.

“It is going to be extremely difficult to write off the PC as some of us did a few years ago,” he said. “PCs are here to stay.”

As well as remote working, there are other reasons for hardware specialists to feel optimistic about the prospects for 2021.

“2021 is shaping up to be an even more exciting year for PCs, with vendors and ecosystem players refusing to rest on their laurels as they compete for the new demand opportunities that have emerged in 2020,” said Ishan Dutt, analyst at Canalys.

“Innovations in chipsets, operating systems, connectivity and form factors will take centre stage as the PC industry caters to a broader range of customers that bring with them new behaviours and use cases,” said Dutt. “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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