Report: PC Sales to Fall in 2020, 2021, and 2022

Posted on January 21, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 11 Comments

A new report by Gartner claims that the Windows 10 upgrade bump is already over and that PC sales will all again in 2020. This corresponds roughly with my own expectations for PC sales, which I feel have essentially plateaued after several down years.

“Even after experiencing a return to growth in 2019, PC shipments are still forecast to decline in 2020 and beyond,” Gartner writes in its latest report, which also concerns other personal computing devices, such as smartphones. “Gartner estimates that one billion PCs will have migrated to Windows 10 through 2020 — around 80 percent of all PCs in use.”

That number is interesting because it means that Gartner believes that there are only 1.25 billion PCs in use worldwide. Microsoft’s latest figure for the active PC market, which hasn’t been updated recently, is 1.5 billion. But I suppose that makes sense: With PC sales settling at a new lower level each year, it stands to reason that the installed base would contract over time as well.

“The PC market’s future is unpredictable because there will not be a Windows 11,” Gartner research senior director Ranjit Atwal said. “Instead, Windows 10 will be upgraded systematically through regular updates. As a result, peaks in PC hardware upgrade cycles driven by an entire Windows OS upgrade will end.”

Gartner says that PC sales will fall to 251 million units in 2020, a decline of 3.8 percent from the 261 million it shipped in 2019. (I combine and average data from both Gartner and IDC in my own market share analysis.) And then they will fall again, to 247 million units in 2021 and then 242 million units in 2022. Assuming this is even vaguely accurate—they’re just predictions—that will represent roughly seven years of flat or slightly down sales overall.

As for the overall personal computing, Gartner says it expects device sales overall to decline slightly over the next three years, with total unit sales hitting 2.166 billion in 2020, 2.153 billion in 2021, and 2.31 billion units in 2022. Mobile phones, in particular, will remain relatively steady, hitting about 1.7 billion in each of those three years.

Gartner further estimates that 5G smartphones will account for 12 percent of all mobile phone shipments in 2020, and that will they will hit 43 percent by 2022.

“From 2020, Gartner expects an increase in 5G phone adoption as prices decrease, 5G service coverage increases and users have better experiences with 5G phones,” Mr. Atwal said. “The market will experience a further increase in 2023, when 5G handsets will account for over 50 percent of the mobile phones shipped.”

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Report: PC Sales to Fall in 2020, 2021, and 2022”

  1. brduffy

    I have to believe this results in a decline in people reading news content online, whatever that content may be. Are people spending 20 or 30 minutes reading long form articles on their phones? Maybe they are, I don't know. I never do. I use my pc for that. My guess, and I could be wrong here, is that people use their phones for quick look ups of things and/or apps that provide a specific service/game other than reading long form content. What do you think?

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to brduffy:

      What I think? I can't stand reading on 16:9 (or even 16:10 [8:5]) screens in landscape orientation. I'm deliriously happy I have 4:3 and 5:4 monitors on my desk at home.

      • brduffy

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I think the Kindle Cloud Reader gets it right with side by side pages. But yeah if I'm reading a long article I prefer the text to use only about half of a wide screen monitor.

  2. Mark from CO

    When comparing the PC and mobile phone market, I think many just look at sale numbers and draw conclusions. A more nuance approach may be more appropriate. The replacement time period for the two markets are vastly different. Doing a search on the average replacement time for a phone you get 2-3 years. For a laptop, 3-5 years, and for a desktop 5-7 years. The market size in annual sales: phones 1.5B; and .25B.

    When looking at the two markets, one needs to adjust for replacement turnover. Yes, when you do make the adjustment, the mobile market is still much much bigger, but not as large when looking strictly at annual sales. The point: the PC market remains an important computing market, albeit considerably smaller than the mobile market. And yes, it has contracted. But I think Gartner's forecast of 1.7B in mobile phone sales in 2020 is optimistic as worldwide mobile phones sales have been flat per Statista since 2017. Perhaps mobile phones, like the PC has reached a saturation point and we'll see replacement times begin to extend even in this market. 

  3. roho

    So where do the lost sales go? The average life of a desktop PC is 5 yrs. Are PC owners abandoning desktop/laptop computers to just owning a mobile phone in the future?

    Also, I don't understand why Gartner separates Surface Pros. Lenovo Yogas, and Macs into a separate category, Ultramoblies- premium.

    I'm just your average consumer trying to understand the reporting.

  4. Daishi

    Another great prediction from the guys who brought you “Windows Phone will have 10% market share by 2018”

  5. ghostrider

    The one, single reason why PC sales have increased a little in 2019/2020 is because of Win7 going EoS. Nothing else. The same thing happened with PC's when XP when EoS. Sales will fall off a cliff again once the enterprise upgrade cycle is complete, as has now been forecast. As Win10 is the 'last version of Windows', you have to assume PC sales will then go into permanent decline.

  6. bart

    Love the image ???

  7. jeromesnail

    << Another great prediction from the guys who brought you “Windows Phone will have 10% market share by 2018” >>

    To be fair, it would have if Microsoft didn't kill it with Windows 10 Mobile or whatever it was called.

  8. hrlngrv

    Re picture, the Lonely Lego Chromebook User?

  9. txag

    Is Windows 10 never being replaced an announcement that hardware/driver advances are frozen in time?

    Will the minimum requirements for 10 never change?