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Weak 2020 buoys strong first quarter growth for PC shipments

The worldwide PC market continued to show strength in the first quarter of 2021, according to new data from Canalys. 

Shipments of desktops and notebooks, including workstations, were up 55% year on year. Though this growth rate was buoyed by a weak Q1 2020, total shipments of 82.7 million units is still impressive, and the highest Q1 shipment number since 2012, the analyst firm says.

Backlogs on orders from 2020, particularly for notebooks, were a key driver, though new demand is also a factor as smaller businesses begin their recoveries. 

Shipments of notebooks and mobile workstations increased 79% year on year to reach 67.8 million units, while 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% year on year to 14.8 million units.

The strong recovery from a weak Q1 2020 saw all vendors in the top five achieve double-digit year-on-year shipment growth, Canalys says.

Lenovo maintained pole position in the PC market, securing a 25% market share and posting year-on-year growth of 61%, with shipments of 20.4 million units. 

HP, spurred by strong Chromebook shipments, came second with total shipments of 19.2 million units, a 64% increase on Q1 2020. 

Dell lost market share against Q4, but took third place in the rankings, growing shipments 23% 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. 

Cumulatively, the top five vendors accounted for 78.5% of all PC shipments in Q1 2021.

“The supply chain issue plaguing the industry is a good problem to have,” says Rushabh Doshi, Canalys research director.

“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," Doshi explains.

"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 investment in computing, which halted abruptly in 2020.”

Ishan Dutt, Canalys analyst, says despite the concerted efforts of the supply chain to ramp up production, Canalys expects the PC market to 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," Dutt says.

"The hindering effect of shortages on countries’ economic revivals should be a wake-up call for governments to increase investment in semiconductor manufacturing.”