A market research report says that 2021 was the best year for PC monitor shipments in recent history. Jon Peddie Research and IDC report that 143.6 million PC monitors were shipped last year. Flipping through the calendar, you would have to go all the way back to 2012 to see a higher figure. 2021 initially saw robust demand for monitors, but things turned for the worse as we entered the backstretch of the year.
Monitor shipments for 2021 overall beat expectations with 5.0% growth YoY. Things could have been much better in 2021 for monitor makers, as the first half saw growth of 19.4%, but a challenging second half of the year interrupted industry exuberance. The change of mood was especially noticeable on the consumer side of things. In Q4 2021, shipments were actually down 5.2% YoY.
So, what happened to the monitor market as we hit H2 2021 to disrupt the uptrend? First of all, it is important to note that 2021 started well and marked the pinnacle of shipment numbers in an uninterrupted period of growth starting in 2018. Yes, that period of growth roughly correlates to the major lockdowns and WFH movement during the pandemic. Pandemic lockdowns and other virus mitigation measures were shunned in many countries as we ended 2021.
Interestingly, analysts at IDC also reckon that the 2018 to 2021 monitor growth period was bolstered by the adoption of Windows 10 by businesses. However, it might be closer to 2025 before we see a repeat of this phenomenon off the back of Windows 11. Last but not least, market researchers reckon that market saturation began to cause a slowdown in monitor buying halfway through 2021. No particular mention was made of gaming monitors in this research.
The change felt in Q4 2021 was notably bad. Again we see pandemic effects; however, it is on the other side of the supply/demand equation. It is thought that China particularly, as it maintained its pursuit of zero-Covid, has continued strengthening lockdowns as Covid variants became more transmissible. This not only hampered production but freight/shipping. As a result, only two companies saw growth in Q4 2021: Dell and Lenovo.
2022 isn't looking good for the monitor industry as far as shipments are concerned. IDC's figures extrapolate a 3.6% YoY decline in shipments for the whole year. That indicates a continuation of the negative saturation trends will continue to weigh down the market. These have been joined by effects of inflation and reduced disposable income due to the energy crisis related to the Ukraine – Russia war.
Looking even further ahead, market researchers expect the 2023 to 2026 period will see shipments flatline. It will be interesting to see what trend or a phenomenon causes the next growth spurt for the monitor industry. Might it be OLED or Micro LED technology, new form factors like rollable or foldable monitors, new larger or higher resolution monitors, or the ready availability of powerful GPUs to handle fast 3D on >4K monitors?