PC Sales Hit Nearly 350 Million Units in 2020, Apple's Growth Outpaces Others

(Image credit: Lenovo)

Demand for personal computers began to grow in early 2020, and while the pace of growth has declined since then (to some degree because of shortages of certain components), the market is still expanding. IDC believes that shipments of desktops and laptops increased by 14.8% year-over-year in 2021. Apple has outstripped other PC suppliers and increased its shipments by 22.1%, but other PC makers also demonstrated significant increases in volume sales. 

The industry shipped 348.8 million PCs in 2021, up 14.8% over 2020. However, growth is clearly slowing as PC makers sold 92.653 million PCs in Q4 2021, an increase of around 1% compared to the same period in 2020. Analysts from IDC believe that shortages of many components (such as graphics cards or high-performance SSDs from some brands) affected the whole market, slowing growth.

"A challenging logistical environment, coupled with ongoing supply-side shortages, meant that the PC market could have been even larger than it was in 2021," according to Tom Mainelli, group vice president of IDC's Device and Consumer Research. "We closed the year with many buyers still waiting for their PC orders to ship. As we move through the first half of the year, we expect supply to remain constrained, especially with regards to the commercial segment where demand is the most robust." 

(Image credit: IDC)

IDC's rival Canalys says that 2020 PC shipments totaled 'only' 341.053 million units, though its prediction for annual growth — 14.6% — is very close to that observed by IDC. Notebooks accounted for 80.6% of systems sold, whereas desktop PCs commanded 19.4% of the market, according to Canalys. The average selling price of a PC in 2021 was around $733, down slightly from $739 in 2020. 

All top 5 PC makers increased their unit shipments quite substantially throughout the year, but Apple was clearly ahead of the pack with a 22.1% year-over-year upturn in terms of units. Still, with 27.775 million systems sold in 2021 and a share of 8%, Apple is still considerably behind Dell, which controls 17% of the market. 

According to data by IDC, Lenovo retained its leading market position in 2021 with a 23.5% share and 81.935 million units shipped. HP, which sold 74.104 million PCs last year and controlled 21.2% of the market, only increased its unit shipments by a rather moderate 9.3% as the company focused on selling premium business/enterprise and gaming machines. It is noteworthy that Lenovo's and HP's sales in the fourth quarter last year declined from Q4 2020 for an unknown reason.

Dell supplied 59.303 million PCs last year, an impressive increase of 17.9% year-over-year, enough to comfortably sustain its position as the world's third-largest PC maker. Acer, the No.5 PC maker, also boosted its unit shipments by 16.5% annually to 23.906 million, but it could not catch up with Apple.  

(Image credit: IDC)

The remaining PC makers slightly increased their share to 23.4% of PCs (from 23.1% of systems a year before) amid their cumulative unit sales growth of around 16.5%, which is perhaps a result of the fact that large PC vendors focused on business and enterprise customers in well-developed countries, whereas smaller players addressed individuals in developing markets.  

Over the past couple of years many users acquired additional PCs for work, learning, and leisure as in many cases their overall behavior changed and they now spend more time at home. But now that they have satisfied their basic needs, they will attempt to buy more premium systems to improve their experience, analysts from Canalys believe. 

"As PC vendors navigate an ever more complicated situation, consumer spending patterns are shifting," said Canalys Principal Analyst Rushabh Doshi. "We will see revenue growth in the industry from spending on premium PCs, monitors, accessories and other technology products that enable us to work from anywhere, collaborate around the world and remain ultra-productive. The importance of faster, better, more resilient and more secure PCs has never been greater, and the industry is willing to innovate and push the boundaries to keep this momentum going." 

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • hotaru251
    ah yes apple.
    can't give u charger casue we want be betetr for enviroment...whiel also destroying devices that can be fixed cause fk the customer and environment give us $.
  • Heat_Fan89
    No surprise with all the GPU shortages and the work from home crowd. I purchased two gaming rigs last year because of the GPU shortages. I see this trend continuing until you find GPU's at MSRP.
  • maik80
    Now with the new chips, sales will increase a lot