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PC market struggles in 2022 but future positivity remains

Canalys has shared its analysis of the fourth quarter and the full year, with it clear that although times are challenging now, there are reasons why that should change

The mood music in the PC market has changed over the past couple of quarters, and has continued to sound negative as the reviews of 2022 have come in.

According to Canalys, the global PC market ended 2022 with shipments of desktops and notebooks down by 29% in the fourth quarter. The economic headwinds took their toll, with consumer holiday spending being impacted.

For the year as a whole, the closing score was a 16% drop in shipments, compared with the prior 12 months. However, the PC market when contrasted with pre-pandemic levels is still in a better position.

“As expected, the global PC market faced further headwinds in Q4 to round out what has been a difficult 2022,” said Ishan Dutt, senior analyst at Canalys.

“The decline is especially stark as the corresponding period in 2021 brought about record shipments of notebooks and desktops,” he said. “Vendors and retailers aimed to stimulate consumer spending with heavy discounting, but despite pockets of success, this was not enough to drive significant new sell-in.”

Cost-of-living pressures have led to PC spending being weighed against the need to pay for energy and food, and as a result, some of the consumer spending that is a usual feature of Q4 was muted.

“On the commercial front, both public and private sector budgets faced tightening amid rising interest rates, slowdowns in hiring and expectations of a recession,” said Dutt. “A December 2022 poll of around 250 channel partners showed that 60% expect their PC business revenue to remain flat or decline in 2023. This challenging environment for the PC industry is anticipated to last until the second half of next year.”

Reasons to remain optimistic

Dutt reminded the channel that there’s still plenty of life in the PC market, and that there are reasons to remain optimistic.

“Despite the short-term difficulty, the long-term outlook for PCs remains positive,” he said. “Shipments in 2022 were down by 16%, and we expect a further contraction in 2023, but in both years, total volumes will remain higher than in the pre-pandemic era of 2019.

“Once businesses and consumers ride out the storm, we expect delayed purchases to begin boosting the market in late 2023, with momentum picking up in 2024,” said Dutt. “This will be bolstered by an education demand bump in major markets as devices deployed during the pandemic peak reach the end of their life cycle.”

While the market waits for the economy to pick up, there continue to be areas where sales are expected to hold up, including gaming devices and hardware that will support hybrid working. The recent CES event in Las Vegas also underlined the continuing tech development from vendors, driving users to spend their money.

In terms of vendors, Lenovo remains at the top in the sales rankings, followed by HP and Dell. All of the hardware players saw shipment devices year-on-year, but managed to hold their positions despite the market pressures.

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