Global PC shipments in 2021 have reached its highest level since 2012 thanks to pandemic-fueled demand, according to research firms Gartner, IDC and Canalys.
Gartner said PC shipments reached 339.8 million units in 2021, a 9.9 percent year over year increase; IDC said shipments were at 348.8 million units, a 14.8 percent increase; while Canalys reported 341 million units, a 15 percent bump.
The increase comes despite a comparatively slower 2021 fourth quarter, where shipment numbers from IDC and Canalys growing 1 percent each, while Gartner’s research even showed a 5 percent decline due to supply chain issues and reduced demand for Chromebooks during the period.
Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said those issues “likely signifies the end of the massive and unexpected growth in PC demand triggered by the pandemic”.
“However, the fourth quarter’s decline only slightly tempered the PC market’s growth in 2021, which saw the highest shipment volume since 2013,” Kitagawa said.
“During the pandemic, shipment growth has been supported by an average selling price (ASP) hike, resulting in higher revenues and a healthier market overall. As a result, annual PC shipment volumes are not expected to decline to pre-pandemic levels for at least two to three years.”
IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani called 2021 as the year where the PC saw its return to form.
"Consumer need for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter with supply being a gating factor,” he said.
“While consumer and educational demand has tapered in some developed markets, we continue to believe the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the pandemic."
IDC Device and Consumer Research group vice president Tom Mainelli said, "A challenging logistical environment, coupled with ongoing supply-side shortages, meant that the PC market could have been even larger than it was in 2021."
"We closed the year with many buyers still waiting for their PC orders to ship. As we move through the first half of the year, we expect supply to remain constrained, especially with regards to the commercial segment where demand is the most robust."
Canalys senior analyst called 2021 a “watershed year” in the history of the PC market, where PCs were cemented as the centre of work, learning and leisure.
“For the market to post double-digit growth over an impressive 2020, despite the constant cloud of supply constraints, speaks volumes about how strong PC demand has been over the last 12 months,” Dutt said.
“Taking a long-term view, the most important developments in 2021 were the large increases in PC penetration and usage rates.”
Dutt added that PCs are now owned by both young students and older family members and developed markets are also seeing ownership of two or more PCs per person becoming more common.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, a larger than normal proportion of PCs shipped have been new additions to the installed base rather than replacement devices, especially in areas such as education and remote work,” Dutt said.
“This has set the stage for continued success for the PC industry as there is no turning back from how embedded they are in our day-to-day lives.”
On the vendor side, global market share continues to be led by Lenovo, followed by HP Inc., Dell, Apple, Acer and ASUS in all three research firms’ data.
While all six vendors posted growth for the whole year, Lenovo, HP and Acer saw declines in the fourth quarter, with Dell, Apple and ASUS posting single digit growth.
Looking ahead, Gartner expects PC demand will slow down over at least the next two years, but won’t return to pre-pandemic levels.
Gartner’s Kitagawa said, “The pandemic significantly changed business and consumer PC user behaviour, as people had to adapt to new ways of working and living.”
“Post-pandemic, some of the newly established ways of using PCs will remain regular practice, such as remote or hybrid workstyles, taking online courses and communicating with friends and family online.”
Canalys meanwhile expects 2022 to be the year of “digital acceleration, according to principal analyst Rushabh Doshi.
“Demand for technology has boomed in the past two years, the effects of which continue to disrupt the supply chain, affecting not just availability of PCs, but also smartphones, automobiles and servers,” Doshi said.
“As PC vendors navigate an ever more complicated situation, consumer spending patterns are shifting. We will see revenue growth in the industry from spending on premium PCs, monitors, accessories and other technology products that enable us to work from anywhere, collaborate around the world and remain ultra-productive.
“The importance of faster, better, more resilient and more secure PCs has never been greater, and the industry is willing to innovate and push the boundaries to keep this momentum going.”