Worldwide PC shipments surge, but constraints remain

Worldwide PC shipments surge, but constraints remain

Canalys reckons that the PC market will be supply-constrained for most of this year.

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In good news for PC resellers, first quarter global PC shipment figures are in, and it appears unanimous that the first three months of 2021 saw a substantial surge in shipped units, bouncing back from a weak Q1 the previous year.

The latest data from industry research firm Canalys shows continued strength in the worldwide PC market in the first quarter of 2021, with shipments of desktops and notebooks, including workstations, up 55 per cent year on year.

While Canalys doesn’t hide from the fact that some of this increase can be attributed to a weak growth rate in the first quarter of 2020, it stressed that total shipments of 82.7 million units in Q1 2021 remains an impressive figure, and the highest Q1 shipment number since 2012.

These figures don’t include tablets, such as slates and detachables, while Chromebooks are included as a subset of notebooks.

As noted by fellow industry analyst firm IDC, which has just published similar figures, backlogs on orders from 2020, particularly for notebooks, were a key driver of the quarterly shipment surge, although new demand was also a factor as smaller businesses began their recoveries from the worst of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The supply chain issue plaguing the industry is a good problem to have,” Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi said. “As average prices rise due to the scarcity of internal hardware, innovation in design is triggering long-term changes to the way PC vendors approach supply and demand.

“Chipmakers, too, are now bullish about personal computing, and have increased their planned future investments to capitalise on the long-term opportunity. While the pandemic is not over just yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This is also spurring SMB [small- to medium-sized business] investment in computing, which halted abruptly in 2020,” he added.

Different subsectors of the PC market bore varying rates of growth during the quarter, with shipments of notebooks and mobile workstations increasing 79 per cent, year-on-year, to reach 67.8 million units. 

Meanwhile, desktops improved slightly at the start of 2021 after a string of poor quarters in 2020, with the level of shipment decline easing. Shipments of desktop and desktop workstations fell 5 per cent year on year to 14.8 million units. 

Credit: Canalys

In terms of market share, the top five vendors accounted for 78.5 per cent of all PC shipments in Q1 2021.

All vendors in the top five achieved double-digit year-on-year shipment growth, with Lenovo maintaining pole position in the PC market, with 25 per cent market share rate and posting year-on-year growth of 61 per cent, with shipments of 20.4 million units.

HP came second, spurred in part by strong Chromebook sales, with total shipments of 19.2 million units, a 64 per cent increase on the corresponding quarter in 2020. Dell lost market share against Q4, according to Canalys, but took third place in the rankings, growing shipments 23 per cent year-on-year to hit 12.9 million units.

Apple and Acer made up the rest of the top five, shipping 6.6 million and 5.7 million units to enjoy the highest and second-highest annual growth respectively.

The big picture for the rest of this year isn’t all rosy, however. Despite concerted efforts of the supply chain to ramp up production, a shipment surge and delivery on order backlogs in the first quarter, Canalys reckons that the PC market will be supply-constrained for most of this year.

“Adding to this, the potential for more black swan events to create even more disruption and uncertainty looms large,” Ishan Dutt, Canalys analyst, said. “The hindering effect of shortages on countries’ economic revivals should be a wake-up call for governments to increase investment in semiconductor manufacturing."

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