2020 was a turnaround year for PC sales – Gartner

PC shipments reached 275 million units in 2020, a 4.8% increase year on year, and the highest growth in ten years.
18 January 2021
  • The pandemic and lockdowns led to a boost in PC shipments last year, according to a report from Gartner
  • But it wasn’t just remote workforces, with consumers making PC purchases to improve their home-life

A new report by Gartner reveals that PC worldwide shipments totaled 79.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 10.7% increase from the same period the year before. For the year, PC shipments reached 275 million units in 2020, a 4.8% increase year on year, and the highest growth in ten years. 

It’s of little surprise that the pandemic had a lot to do with that growth. What’s interesting is that demand shot up among consumers who, up until last year, had been trending towards becoming mobile-first. 

“The worldwide PC market saw a strong finish to 2020, recording a third consecutive quarter of year over year growth, although there continued to be supply shortages due to this high demand,” said Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner. 

“Robust consumer PC demand again drove sales, particularly in regions where governments maintain stay-at-home orders as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Prior to 2020, consumers had been shifting to a phone-first focus, yet the pandemic reversed this trend. PCs have resurfaced as an essential device as consumers, including younger children, are relying on them to for work, school, socializing, and be entertained from their homes.

Business spending on PCs actually slowed in the final quarter, with the urgent purchases for remote work having peaked earlier in the year. 

While Gartner does not include Chromebook shipments in its traditional PC market results, the fourth quarter of 2020 was another remarkable period of growth for Chromebooks, with shipments increasing around 200% year over year to reach 11.7 million units. 

In 2020, Chromebook shipments increased over 80% to total nearly 30 million units, largely due to demand from the North American education market, which is attracted by their low cost, and cloud-ready functionality.

Google shipped 11.6 million Chromebook units in Q2, representing a historical high for a single quarter and 25% of total notebook shipments

The top three vendors in the worldwide PC market remained unchanged from the previous quarter, although Lenovo continued to widen its lead over HP. 

Reflecting the trend seen throughout 2020, consumer-oriented vendors such as Apple, Acer, and Asus gained market share.

Kitawaga said the while the health crisis was the key driver behind the growth in PC shipments, “it remains to be seen if [growth] 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.”