PC Sales Grew 8.6 Percent in 2020

Posted on January 12, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 20 Comments

PC makers sold 288.9 million PCs in 2020, a leap of 8.6 percent over the previous year, and the second consecutive year of growth for the once-struggling industry. Previously, PC sales had fallen for seven straight years since its high in 2011.

While the PC will never hit its 2011 high of 365.4 million units sold, 2020 was still a terrific year, with hardware makers selling more PCs than had been the case since 2015, when Windows 10 launched. That year, PC makers sold 288.7 million PCs.

Last year, of course, benefitted from the COVID-19 pandemic and its worldwide work-from-home requirements. Given the unexpected boost to sales, and the resulting shortages, many now expect 2021 to see a similar lift. The question is whether the PC market will then fall off again after that and readopting previous patterns, or that perhaps we’ve moved the needle a bit higher on what had been plateauing sales.

We’ll see. For now, let’s celebrate the world’s renewed understanding that the PC, despite being perceived as yesterday’s technology, is still very important.

“Demand is pushing the PC market forward and all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go,” IDC vice president Ryan Reith said of the sales surge. “The obvious drivers for last year’s growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked. We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market. In retrospect, the pandemic not only fueled PC market demand but also created opportunities that resulted in a market expansion.”

“Despite some supply chain issues at the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 coupled with consistent consumer demand created tremendous growth opportunities for PCs throughout the year,” Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa added. “This momentum is likely to continue through at least the first half of 2021, but it remains to be seen if it will sustain in the post-pandemic era as it will depend on the permanency of the changes driving demand. For instance, online education may continue even after schools open, consumers may still buy groceries online, and some businesses may continue full- or part-time remote work. If these scenarios persist, then PCs will return to consumers’ daily lives as an essential device.”

For the full year 2020, Lenovo emerged again as the world’s biggest maker of PCs, with 70.6 million units sold, good for about 24.4 percent market share. HP, with 63 million units sold and 21.8 percent share, was number two, and Dell, with 47.7 million units and 16.5 percent share, was number three. Apple landed in fourth place with 22.8 million units sold, was a distant number 4, and the Mac ended 2020 with 7.9 percent marketshare. Acer was in fifth place.

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “PC Sales Grew 8.6 Percent in 2020”

  1. ghostrider

    So, more companies making money out of a pandemic! It's always the same, some will lose, but if you're in the right market, it's a win-win. This won't be repeated though - I fully expect the normal slide to resume after all this is over.

    I always say; war and disease are big business opportunities!

  2. JH_Radio

    Also If you get a PC with an HD, then even get a SATA-based SSD (If you can't use M.2 or 3), even that can really make a PC just last forever. My oldest PC is a Intel Core I7 Second Gen HP ELITEBOOK 8560P. Put 16GB of Ram in there, upgraded the SSD (as it was small and was starting to ware out), and that thing is pretty fast.

  3. jfgordon

    I have a question of economics, I guess. Why is a very large, moderately profitable business bad if it does not grow? Huge industries like, idk, food or coffee are probably flat, but still good places to be, business-wise, at least in the high part of the market, right? I understand that no grow means low stock price, but still, selling hundreds of millions of things worth on average 600-1k$ looks like a good predicament for an industry. I do not understand. Moreover, human body is not going to change anytime soon, so we will always need largi-sh keyboard to type, largi-sh monitors to work. All clerical and administrative work will be done on the PC for the foreseable future.

    • Paul Thurrott

      This is more market-related than economics, though I guess it drives both. There's no market reward for "flat." You're rewarded for growth. That's why we have peanut butter cup cereal now. Just having that one successful product isn't enough to satisfy investors.
  4. a_lurker

    My guess is the normal plateau is somewhat below the 2020 figures, probably about 3 to 4% lower. In the future I expect very slow overall growth in unit sales with some noise around the trend line. The 2021 figures, my guess, will be about 2% lower than 2020, most of the new gear has been bought already.

  5. spiderman2

    "but but with a phone and/or table I can do anything"

  6. longhorn

    Apple and macOS could easily become mainstream, but Apple has carefully avoided this. It might stem from the 1997 agreement with Microsoft/Gates that badly needed a competitor at the time. And according to some, Gates had a soft spot for Apple.

    "It has to do with an antitrust lawsuit that the Department of Justice was preparing. That could have been very harmful to Microsoft. So, to prove that Microsoft wasn’t a monopoly, he saved his competitor. Needless to say, that worked. The Department of Justice dropped that case 3 years later."

    The symbiotic relationship between Apple and Microsoft is interesting. Microsoft is the mainstream brand and Apple is the fashion/premium brand. It's not unthinkable that major shareholders are the same people, which can basically be said about any corporation. That's why they tend to react the same way. It becomes dangerous when 1000 or 10 000 people/families basically own a country like the US through networks of business relationships. I think private ownership of Federal Reserve since 1913 is what enabled corporate takeover of America and ultimately the entire western civilization.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to longhorn:

      Maybe it’ll happen now that apple seems to care about desktops again, and got rid of that silly trash can. The best time to strike would’ve been during the Win 8 doldrums, but I think almost everyone in charge then at MS and apple were thinking desktops were dead.

  7. crunchyfrog

    In reply to sammyg: Not wanting to sound too negative about this but we have at least another year of this before we're clear.

  8. crunchyfrog

    Nothing like a pandemic to turn sales around. The PC industry will be toasting to this for a while.

  9. jdawgnoonan

    In reply to lvthunder:

    But I think most firms will happily hop onto the cloud bandwagon due to less overall support cost and fewer issues. Plus, if you can stream a video game there is no reason that you cannot stream almost anything from a more powerful than a cheap PC cloud.

  10. jdawgnoonan

    A thing to consider regarding PC sales over the last decade is that they do not age as badly as they used to and so they are worth keeping longer. Processors ceased being the bottleneck of normal performance long ago. Any PC that shipped with an SSD drive as opposed to a HDD has a longer pleasantly usable life than previous PCs had regardless of which processor they shipped with. For instance, my i5 Surface Pro from 2014 (beyond end of life by the way) is still very usable today for most non-demanding tasks. If it did not have an SSD that would not be the case. With an SSD even a lack of RAM is not as big of deal as VRAM/SWAP is sufficiently fast to not make a machine absolutely suck to use for the types of tasks that most machines are used for. But they are still more pleasant to use for those same tasks than say my very fast iPad Pro is (iPad, regardless of level, is basically for Netflix though).

  11. VancouverNinja

    22.8 Million Macs; very impressive for one company. However it is clear that many developers, and some tech firms, are living in an alternate reality thinking developing apps on Macs is the right place to be. I cannot remember Apple sinking below 8.5%. Clearly PCs still dominate the landscape and offer the largest potential ROI.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Last year, Apple was 6.8 percent (or whatever). 2022 was an increase.
    • jdawgnoonan

      In reply to VancouverNinja:

      I think applications developed with things like the Electron framework are the future, applications such as Teams or Visual Studio Code are two great Electron applications. Those applications utilize the cloud and open standards to make the client irrelevant. I think where Apple loses in this is that their hardware is overpriced if the future is essentially semi dumb clients. I use both of those applications on Windows and on Linux and they run equally well on both.

  12. pecosbob04

    "Apple landed in fourth place with 22.8 million units sold, was a distant number 4," Edit needed; forgot to take shot at Apple, corrected that but neglected to delete the redundancy. Obviously!

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