The global PC market is expected to continue growing in 2021 despite ongoing uncertainty around the supply and distribution of crucial components. Canalys forecast that shipments of PCs will grow 8 percent in 2021 to 496.8 million units following the massive sales last year that was called a blockbuster 2020. The company counts desktops, notebooks and tablets as PCs for its forecasts.
The growth forecast comes despite prevailing uncertainty around supply and distribution, with components like displays, GPUs and other smaller chips that drive PC internals, expected to face a squeeze for most of 2021 and well into 2022.
Some of the growth includes backlogs on device orders from last year, which are compounded by continued demand from workers and students still affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
Canalys said growth is expected to be frontloaded in the first half of the year, with shipments up 54 percent in Q1 and 7 percent in Q2. Chromebooks and tablets will also be bright spots, forecast to grow 30 percent and 8 percent respectively.
The global PC market grew for a third quarter in a row recording an impressive 13 percent growth compared to Q3 2020 thanks to the increased demand during the holiday season. But even compared to Q4 2019, the industry marked an impressive 25 percent growth. That’s a speedy recovery after the tough Q1 last year. The shipments for the entire 2020 grew 11 percent reaching 297 million units with notebooks and mobile workstations being the driving factor and accounting for 235.1 million of those. In fact, desktop PC shipments fell 22 percent to 61.9 million units compared to 2019.
“Following the boom in 2020, the PC industry is set to grow for years to come,” Canalys research director Rushabh Doshi said. “Order backlogs and ongoing strong demand present a great short-term opportunity, while the ballooned installed base of PC users presents significant future opportunities for refreshes and upgrades,” he added.
Doshi called the forecasts conservative due to the component squeeze, which could also be exacerbated by competition with automotive, smart manufacturing and smart IoT industries.
“Logistics and transportation are also a limiting factor in meeting demand, with vendors turning to more expensive air freight to help cut delivery times,” Doshi added. “If the industry can overcome these persistent issues, we could see higher growth levels.”
On Chromebooks and tablets, Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said the devices will have a rosy future this year and beyond. Dutt said: “Both are value-for-money alternatives to more expensive Windows devices, catering to segments that are underserved by Wintel. 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,” the analyst further added.