PC Sales See Record Growth

The Pandemic Shift from Phones to Computers

Personal computer sales rose 13% last year to 302.6 million units sold around the world, according to research from International Data Corp’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. Another research firm, Canalys, measured an 11% increase to 297 million units sold. That would be the highest annual growth since 2010 and the highest shipment volume in more than five years.

The differences between counts from the different firms are related to how each company defines personal computers. But both statistics show that PC sales have surged during the pandemic. Sales in the fourth quarter of 2020 were particularly strong, which is typical during the holiday season. PC-makers also saw a boost in demand throughout the year as companies, school districts, and families shopped for remote work and school equipment. Gaming computers and monitors also sold at record rates as people looked for ways to entertain themselves at home.

Growth Spurred by Remote Work Rush

As companies rushed to get equipment to newly remote workers in 2020, sales trends were jumbled. Combined sales of notebooks and desktop devices have slumped since 2011, but last year shipments of notebooks and mobile workstations jumped 44% from 2019. Conventional desktop and workstation sales, meanwhile, declined 20%.

During the first quarter of 2020, PC sales declined as Chinese factories shut down while the pandemic raged and global supply chains were shaken. Pent up demand led to a spike in sales later in the year—especially in the commercial sector. “We’ve seen many companies equip their critical resources with one or, in some cases, two laptops to ensure that business roles were not affected due to the inability to come into the workplace,” said Rushabh Doshi, a Mobility Research Director at Canalys.

As CES Begins, PC Makers Look to 2021

The release of these figures has been timed to coincide with the start of CES, the biggest tech show in the world. The conference began on Monday and is all virtual this year. It typically includes product reveals and commentary from industry leaders on tech trends from the past year as well as forecasts for the year to come. Personal computer companies often unveil their newest models at CES, and those announcements can spur future sales.

This year, the Consumer Technology Association anticipates $38 billion in sales for the US laptop market. That would represent a 2% decrease from 2020’s record spending.

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