The PC market is expected to grow 8 per cent year-on-year by the end of 2021 to 496.8 million units shipped, with its growth prospects held back by supply and distribution constraints.
According to research firm Canalys, the bulk of this year's PC market growth is expected to occur in the first six months of the year due to unfulfilled demand. Breaking that down into quarters, a 57 per cent surge in shipments is expected for the first quarter, which will then be followed by a muted 7 per cent in the second quarter.
However, Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi said that the uncertainty surrounding supply and distribution resulted in the research firm taking a “relatively conservative view” with its overall single digit growth forecast for the year.
"Crucial components, such as displays, GPUs and other smaller chips that drive PC internals, will face a squeeze for most of 2021 and well into 2022, leaving a significant amount of demand unfulfilled," he explained.
"Competition for components from the automotive, smart manufacturing and smart IoT [internet of things] industries will also put pressure on PC vendors, which will see their prioritisation fall,” he said. “Logistics and transportation are also a limiting factor in meeting demand, with vendors turning to more expensive air freight to help cut delivery times. If the industry can overcome these persistent issues, we could see higher growth levels.”
All product categories — desktops, notebooks and tablets — are expected to see a rise in shipments during 2021, with rises of 4.4 per cent, 9.4 per cent, and 8.3 per cent, respectively.
In particular, the growth for tablet shipments this year, as well as an estimated 30 per cent rise in Chromebook shipments, have a “rosy future” for the year ahead, as well as the years to come, according to Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt.
“Both are value-for-money alternatives to more expensive Windows devices, catering to segments that are underserved by Wintel," he said.
“The education segment will continue to be a key driver, with Chromebooks facing some of the most severe order backlogs of any PC category. In addition, Canalys also expects the broader commercial segment to expand deployments of Chromebooks and tablets.
“As economies begin to open up, restricting human-to-human interaction remains important and tablets allow for simple tasks in retail, hospitality and travel to be undertaken more easily. And in developing markets, Android slate tablets will be of particular importance as they support affordable moves to digital education.
“Vendors with healthy Chromebook and tablet portfolios will be well placed to achieve growth in the coming years.”