PC shipments faced tough fourth quarter, but pandemic supplies a brace

According to tech research firm StatCounter, about 1% of the world’s 1.5 billion or so personal computers—making a total of around 15 million—are actually running Windows 8. Photo: AFP (AFP)

PC Shipments Faced Tough Fourth Quarter, but Pandemic Supplies a Brace


Firms that track industry say households are adding personal computers, not just replacing them

Shortages and bottlenecks weighed on personal-computer shipments in the fourth quarter, but the pandemic-induced revival of the PC market is expected to continue, according to industry data.

International Data Corp. and Canalys said PC shipments in the fourth quarter rose about 1%, while Gartner Inc. said world-wide PC shipments declined 5% in the December quarter, which it said was the first year-over-year decline after six straight quarters of growth.

Much of the difference in the tallies from the data providers comes from how each company defines PCs.

Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner research director, attributed the difficult fourth quarter to a sharp drop in shipments in the U.S. because of supply-chain issues and lower demand for Chromebooks.

Supply constraints are expected to continue to weigh on shipments for at least the first half of the year, particularly for the commercial segment, where demand is most robust, said Tom Mainelli, group vice president of IDC’s device and consumer research.

While consumer and educational demand has tapered in some markets, including the U.S., IDC said it continues to believe the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remote work and schooling over the past two years have altered the baseline for PCs, with families now needing more than one computer, analysts say. In addition, the industry is experiencing shorter refresh cycles, in part because of a shift to notebooks and other devices that typically need to be replaced earlier.

“2021 was a watershed year in the history of the PC market, with the PC’s place at the center of work, learning and leisure truly cemented," Canalys senior analyst Ishan Dutt said in a written statement, adding that since the pandemic’s onset, a larger-than-normal proportion of PCs shipped have been new additions rather than replacements.

“There is no turning back from how embedded they are in our day-to-day lives," Mr. Dutt said.

Going forward, Canalys expects higher spending on premium PCs, monitors and other products as consumers look for faster, better, more resilient and more secure PCs.

Canalys said PC shipments in 2021 totaled 341.1 million units, while IDC pegged world-wide shipments for the year at 348.8 million units, in both cases a roughly 15% increase from the previous year.

Meanwhile, Gartner said 2021 shipments reached 339.8 million units, up about 9.9% from the previous year.

The three firms ranked Lenovo Group Ltd. as the No. 1 vendor, followed by HP Inc., Dell Technologies Inc. and Apple Inc.

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