A new report from the market researchers at IDC claims that the PC industry’s post-pandemic sales freefall will come to an end next year, with PC sales forecast to grow by 3.7 percent in 2024.
“Consumer demand remains tepid at best as the segment continues to face economic headwinds,” IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani said. “Consumer demand for PCs also faces challenges from other devices including smartphones, consoles, tablets, and more, marking 2023 as the year with the greatest annual decline in consumer PC shipments since the category’s inception.”
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PC sales reached their apex in 2011 when hardware makers sold 365.5 million units, but the industry then suffered through a 7-year shortfall, with sales hitting a low of 259 million units in 2018. But sales grew slightly in 2019, grew to 289 million units in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, and then soared to 344.3 million units in 2021. Since then, alas, a combination of factors—component shortages and a post-buying spree hangover—has dogged the PC market, with sales falling 16 percent in 2022 to 289 million units.
This year has fared no better, with PC sales now falling for six consecutive quarters, and falling by 29 percent in Q1 and 13.4 percent in Q2, according to IDC. This trend will continue throughout 2023, IDC now says, with the overall industry expected to experience a 13.7 percent unit sales shortfall compared to the previous year and 252 million units sold. If that holds true, 2023 will be the worst year for the PC industry since I’ve been keeping records.
But 2024 will be a bit better, IDC claims, with unit sales rising 3.7 percent to 261.4 million units, which is still below 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Looking further ahead, IDC sees 1.7 percent growth in 2027, with hardware makers shipping 285 million PCs, roughly even with the amount sold in 2016. I would pay too much attention to IDC ’s long-term predictions, however, given its spotty record.
We’re starting to see Microsoft and PC makers call out AI capabilities as a future growth generator, and IDC weighed in on that too, noting that this change has “shifted some of the discussion around device purchasing within businesses.” But other trends—the rise of AMD, which now sells over 11 percent of all PCs, the move to remote/hybrid work and the resulting adaptation of this reality by IT, and even Apple, with about 5 percent of the market—will have an impact on PC sales in the near future too. We’re talking very small numbers here, but business (commercial) PC sales growth is expected to outpace that of consumer PCs in the next few years.
“These days it’s hard to have a conversation that doesn’t involve AI and where and how to invest,” IDC group vice president Ryan Reith said. “Commercial PCs will remain interesting for years to come with technology advances adding an extra element to decision making, but it’s important to remember that Windows 10 end of support comes in 2025 and this will drive commercial refresh regardless of whether companies are waiting on more advanced PCs or just needing to update an aging installed base. It seems clear that Apple sees an opportunity to continue its growth in the commercial segment and this will be an angle to watch closely going forward.”