Explained: Why PC Sales Surged in the Fourth Quarter of 2020


Explained: Why PC Sales Surged in the Fourth Quarter of 2020

The demands to work and learn from home even created some laptop shortages earlier in the pandemic.

International CES, through its first two days, hasn’t featured a lot of breakthroughs when it comes to personal computers. But nevertheless, an announcement was made during the show that PC shipments were once again robust in the fourth quarter.

According to IDC and its worldwide quarterly personal computing device tracker, PC shipments jumped 26.1 percent year over year to 91.6 million units. Meanwhile, PCs jumped 13.1 percent year over year for the full year of 2020.

The numbers were described as “preliminary.” But assuming they hold up, it would represent the largest year-over-year growth for the PC sector since 2010.

“Every segment of the supply chain was stretched to its limits as production once again lagged behind demand during the quarter,” Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers, said in the announcement.

“Not only were PC makers and ODMs dealing with component and production capacity shortages, but logistics remained an issue as vendors were forced to resort to air freight, upping costs at the expense of reducing delivery times.”

Demand rose so much for PCs in 2020, thanks largely to the surge in distance learning and working from home, that there were reports of shortages of laptops in much of the United States.

In terms of brands, Lenovo was the top company in the fourth quarter, with 23.1 million shipments and a 25.2 percent market share. HP was second with 19.1 million shipments and 20.9 percent of the market, with Dell third, at just under 15.8 million shipments and 17.2 percent of the market. Apple finished fourth, shipping 7.35 million Macs for 8 percent of the worldwide market.

The race was closer when it came to shipments for the year in total. Lenovo was still first, with 72.7 million units sold and 24 percent of the market. HP was second, with 67.6 million units and 22.4 percent. Dell came in third, with 50.3 million shipments and 16.6 percent, and Apple was fourth with 23 million sold and 7.6 percent of the market. Acer Group was fifth by both measures.

“Demand is pushing the PC market forward and all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go,” Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, said in the release.

“The obvious drivers for last year’s growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked. We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market. In retrospect, the pandemic not only fueled PC market demand but also created opportunities that resulted in a market expansion.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.