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2020 Was the Biggest Year for PC Demand in a Decade


Sure, 2020 sucked, but not for the PC market. Thanks to the pandemic, demand for the products soared at a rate not seen since 2010. 

During the year, PC vendors shipped 302 million units across the globe, an annual increase of 13.1 percent, according to the research firm IDC. “To put things into perspective, the last time the PC market saw annual growth of this magnitude was 2010 when the market grew 13.7 percent,” the company said in a research note on Monday. 

Canalys, another research firm, estimated the growth in PC shipments to be closer to 11 percent. Nevertheless, it agreed that annual PC demand hasn’t been this high for a decade, when smartphones were just starting to take off.

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(Photo by Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Driving the growth has been COVID-19 and the need for people to work and learn from at home, causing demand for PCs to soar, particularly for laptops. “Worldwide PC market growth in 2020 was single handedly driven by notebooks and mobile workstations,” Canalys added. “Shipments of these devices increased 44 percent from 2019 to reach 235.1 million units.”

One category of laptops that rode high in 2020 were Google Chromebooks, which tend to be priced under $500. According to the research firm Gartner, shipments for the products surged by 80% in 2020, largely due to heavy demand in North America.

The top PC vendors, according to IDC.

(Top PC vendors, according to IDC.)

But not every PC product fared well in 2020. Canalys says demand for desktops fell by 20%, likely due to businesses spending less on office IT systems. 

As for the future, analysts expect the high PC demand to possibly linger into 2021 even with a COVID-19 vaccine on the way. “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,” said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. “If these scenarios persist, then PCs will return to consumers’ daily lives as an essential device.”

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