The pandemic PC boom gave personal computers their biggest year in nearly a decade

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Personal-computer shipments hit their highest annual level in nearly a decade, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced workers and students to stay home in 2021, reports research firms.

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Global PC shipments grew just 1% to 92.7 million units in the holiday quarter, while ending the year with a total of 348.8 million units, according to a Wednesday report by International Data Group. This is the highest annual total since 2012, IDC said, for a gain of 14.8% from 2020, when PCs began flying off shelves as COVID-19 pushed more work, education and commerce online.

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Before the pandemic, PC sales had declined for years as consumers focused on replacing their smartphones more regularly than their laptops.

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“Consumer demand for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter, with supply being a gating factor,” Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for mobile device trackers at IDC, said in a statement. “While consumer and educational demand has subsided in some developed markets, we believe the overall PC market has reset to a much higher level than before the pandemic.”

Rival Gartner on Wednesday reported a slightly smaller annualized 339.8 million units shipped, a 10% increase, and said worldwide PC shipments declined 5% in the fourth quarter to 88.4 million.

“The fourth-quarter decline slightly dampened the growth of the PC market in 2021, which saw the highest shipment volume since 2013,” Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, said in a prepared statement. “During the pandemic, shipment growth has been supported by average selling price (ASP) growth, resulting in higher revenues and a healthier market overall. As a result, annual PC shipment volumes are not expected to fall to pre-pandemic levels for at least 2-3 years. ,

Back in October, Gartner announced a major change in reporting its shipment figures by adding Chromebooks to its tally, as the popular low-cost laptops boomed in popularity with remote schooling. Previously, Gartner didn’t factor in Chromebooks — PCs running Alphabet Inc.’s GOOG,
+1.16%

Google,
+1.21%
Google Chrome operating system – in their statistics, which created a wide gap between the figures of the two research firms.

“The slowdown this quarter was due to a sharp decline in the US PC market, supply chain issues and declining demand for Chromebooks,” Kitagawa said. “This probably signals the end of the massive and unexpected growth in PC demand resulting from the pandemic.”

PC makers struggled to find the components they needed to build their products at times in 2021, hampering their ability to manufacture and ship the product. Notably, semiconductors were in short supply globally, and Intel Corp. INTC,
-0.30%
At times in recent years it struggled to produce enough chips for PCs, while also suffering losses in manufacturing the next generation.

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“A challenging logistics environment, coupled with supply-side constraints, means the PC market could be even bigger than it was in 2021,” said Tom Menelli, IDC’s head of device and consumer research.

“We closed out the year because many buyers are still waiting for their PC orders to be shipped,” Menelli said. “As we move into the first half of the year, we expect supply to remain constrained, especially with respect to the commercial segment where demand is strongest.”

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Lenovo Group Limited of China 992,
+2.16%
IDC was the largest manufacturer for the year, according to the table, with shipments rising 14.1% to 81.9 million, surpassing HP Inc. was ahead of HPQ,
-0.51%,
Which saw shipments rise 9.3% to 74.1 million, facing some of the biggest issues in the industry with receiving components. Dell Technologies Inc. Ka Dale,
-0.50%
Shipments rose 17.9% to 59.3 million, while Apple Inc. of AAPL,
+0.26%
up 22.1% to 27.8 million and Acer Inc’s 2353,
-0.99%
increased 16.5% to 23.9 million.

Gartner’s figures were similar, although there was a disparity with Lenovo and Apple’s Yoga. Gartner reported Lenovo shipments rose 10.4% to 84 million, HP shipments rose 8.8% to 74.2 million, Dell’s grew 17.6% to 59.7 million, Apple rose 18.1% to 26 million, and Acer rose 8.3% to 24.3 million .

For the holiday quarter, IDC said Lenovo shipments declined 3.3% to 21.7 million units, HP shipments fell 3.2% to 18.6 million units, Dell shipments rose 8.9% to 17.2 million PCs, Apple shipments rose 8.6% to 7.6 million units, and Acer and Asustek Computer Inc. 2357,

According to IDC, both posted around 6 million, a 12.5% ​​gain for Asus but a decline of 7.7% for Acer.

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For the fourth quarter, Gartner said Lenovo shipments fell 11.9% to 21.7 million, HP shipments fell 4.2% to 18.6 million, Dell’s rose 7.9% to 17.2 million, Apple’s rose 6.2% to 6.8 million and Acer’s fell 9% to 6.2 million .

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