Last year, the chip shortage may have prevented some consumers from scoring certain laptop models or graphics cards. But the supply troubles weren’t enough to stop the PC market from growing to a level not seen in almost a decade.
In 2021, vendors shipped nearly 349 million PCs across the globe, marking an increase of 14.8% from the year before, according to research firm IDC.
To put the figures in perspective, the PC market hasn’t shipped this many units in a single year since 2012, when the number reached 352 million units. Sales for laptops and desktops then shrunk due to the rise of smartphones and tablets.
However, COVID-19 sparked new demand for PCs. The need to study and work from home sent PC shipments soaring in 2020 and in 2021.
IDC added that the PC market would have grown even larger in 2021, if not for the ongoing chip shortage. “We closed the year with many buyers still waiting for their PC orders to ship,” said IDC Analyst Tom Mainelli.
For PC vendors, the bad news is that the supply troubles are expected to bleed over into 2022 and constrain product shipments. There are also signs that the historically high sales started to cool off last year. So there’s a strong chance the PC market may hardly grow at all this year.
Nevertheless, IDC is still optimistic on the future of PC demand. “While consumer and educational demand has tapered in some developed markets, we continue to believe the overall PC market has reset at a much higher level than before the pandemic,” said IDC Research Manager Jitesh Ubrani.
Research firm Canalys also recorded PC shipments in 2021 reaching 341 million units, or 15% year-over-year growth. “Taking a long-term view, the most important developments in 2021 were the large increases in PC penetration and usage rates,” said Canalys Analyst Ishan Dutt.
“PCs are now in the hands of both young students and older family members, while ownership of two or more PCs per person has become more common in developed markets,” he added. “This has set the stage for continued success for the PC industry as there is no turning back from how embedded they are in our day-to-day lives.”