The PC market just had another big year thanks to pandemic demand

The PC market saw its first major growth in a decade in 2020, as the pandemic began forcing people to work and learn from home. Market research firms Gartner and IDC now report that the global PC market has grown again in 2021 as demand for traditional PCs persisted amid a global chip shortage.

According to Gartner, nearly 340 million PCs will be shipped by 2021. That’s an increase of nearly 10 percent from the already unprecedented numbers in 2020. IDC estimates the figure at 348.8 million, an increase of almost 15 percent.

“2021 was really a return to form for the PC,” said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC. “Consumer demand for PCs in emerging markets and global commercial demand remained strong during the quarter, with supply being a determining factor.” Ongoing supply issues related to a global chip shortage mean the PC market “could have been even bigger than it was in 2021,” said Tom Mainelli, an executive at IDC.

Gartner’s Global PC Market Shipments for 2021.
Image: Gartner

IDC’s PC Market Shipments for 2021.
Image: IDC

Gartner reports that 2021 saw the highest PC shipment volume since 2013, after a 2017 milestone of five years of PC decline. “As a result, annual PC shipment volumes are not expected to fall to pre-pandemic levels over the next 2-3 years,” explains Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner.

While global numbers for 2021 were positive for the PC market, the fourth quarter in the US was hit by supply chain issues and what Gartner describes as a “demand slump for Chromebooks.” This could mean that the unexpected PC growth we saw in 2020 and 2021 will not continue this year.

However, the pandemic has revived the PC market for two years in a row. Microsoft also launched Windows 11 last year, after declaring at the start of the pandemic that “the PC is back,” thanks to a major jump in Windows usage. AMD and Intel also just launched their latest laptop chips at CES 2022, so expect to see more new PCs in stores soon.