PC shipments are at a decade high as individuals and businesses buy new systems for working and learning remotely, but according to market research firm IDC, PC sales will continue to grow over the next five years, albeit at a slower rate. However, according to analysts, supply constraints will continue for the foreseeable future.
"The market has pulled past peak pandemic PC demand," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager with IDC's Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers.
The PC market is on track to reach 344.7 million units in 2021, a 13.5% growth rate compared to 2020, reports IDC. Demand for systems is strong across all segments: shipments of commercial PCs are robust, consumer PC sales are well above pre-pandemic levels, but the growth rate shows signs of slowing (perhaps because PC makers will prioritize producing high-margin PCs over consumer machines), whereas demand for gaming systems is at a record high, based on data from IDC.
"With ongoing supply chain challenges we have seen OEMs prioritizing commercial demand in recent months," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers. "More often than not the commercial dollars are larger and more guaranteed compared to the consumer and education segments. The recent slowdown in the consumer segment is expected to continue into 2022, but in the long run we expect the consumer PC market will have a five-year growth rate similar to the commercial segment."
Overall, IDC predicts a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% for PCs. Most of the growth is expected from notebooks, but demand for desktops will probably be strong, too. But that growth may be challenged by supply constraints, IDC admits. There are shortages of pretty much everything, starting from fairly expensive CPUs and extending down to power management ICs (PMICs) and display driver ICs (DDICs). These supply constraints will primarily impact the growth of consumer PCs. Price cuts and/or the introduction of premium features could spur demand for these systems, but with ongoing shortages, it is hard to expect them to get either.
"Of the three market segments – commercial, consumer, and education – it is looking like commercial will be the only one to grow in 2022," said Reith. "Part of this is driven by supply, but also because it will take time for a consumer refresh cycle to happen following the wave of consumer buying that happened over the past two years. The education segment hasn't been able to get all the devices it needs, but on a broader scale there haven't been many cancelled orders. When supply catches up with demand, we expect to see an uplift in the education sector as well."
Tablets have been in high demand recently, so shipments will increase by 4.3% year-over-year in 2021. Meanwhile, IDC forecasts that that tablet sales will drop in 2022 and 2023, probably because Apple introduced new models in 2020/2021, so most users won't upgrade any time soon. In addition, the category itself is challenged by both smartphones and notebooks, which is perhaps why Apple is evolving its iPadOS to be more usable for creative and productivity workloads.