According to research firm Gartner, close to 70 million PCs were shipped in the first three months of 2021 -- an uptick of 32 percent year-over-year. Much of that is the result of a flood of shipments caused by a lingering computer chip shortage that started in 2020, but another factor was an increase in people working from home.
All of this is happening despite the fact that semiconductor chip shortages are still rearing their ugly head and affecting the supply chain. Lead times for some PC shipments are still extending out as far as four months.
“While this may lead to lower shipment numbers, it is still reasonable to conclude that PC demand could remain strong even after stay-home restrictions ease. Moving forward, vendors and suppliers will be closely balancing the need to meet underlying demand without creating excess inventory,” stated Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner.
Desktops vs. laptops
There’s a decided shift in who’s buying what. While Lenovo had the largest spurt, much of that demand came from an uptick in desk-based computer sales in China.
However, the increase in lockdowns stateside and in other areas of the world have fueled demand for notebooks and Chromebooks. Consumers who are no longer tethered to a desktop computer at an office now need something more portable to use for school, work, and entertainment.
Gartner said it’s starting to see a new, emerging trend among consumers -- one in which consumers are shelving their limited, older systems and moving toward faster computers with longer battery lives.
The rise of the Chromebook
One interesting curiosity in Gartner’s research is its exclusion of the Chromebook in its final results. A company spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs that a Chromebook isn’t considered in the PC category because of its limitations, particularly when not connected to the internet.
However, limitations or not, the total number of PCs shipped would have increased by an estimated 47 percent had Chromebooks been included. According to Gartner and research firm Canalys, Chromebook shipments tripled in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to a year earlier -- a surge tied predominantly to schools buying Chromebooks for students.
“Demand for Chromebooks is through the roof,” said Canalys Research Director Rushabh Doshi. “With many countries being forced to accelerate their digital education plans in the wake of additional lockdowns, schools and universities are clamoring for easy to deploy solutions and Google’s digital offerings for education are proving quite popular over rival platforms, especially in the US and Western Europe.
“With governments in many countries racing towards a much needed 1:1 device to student ratio, Chromebook demand for education is expected to remain strong through 2021. Outside education, there has also been mounting interest from consumers and traditional commercial customers in seeking out Chromebooks to ensure affordable continuity of business or personal computing.” he said.