PC sales have surged for at-home workers and learners during the pandemic
With millions of workers and students forced to stay home owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of personal computers shot to their highest level in six years.
Sales of laptop and desktop computers exceeded 302 million in 2020, a 13% increase from the year before and the most since 2014, according to market tracker International Data Corp. Chinese tech giant Lenovo led the market with a 24% share, followed by American sellers HP and Dell. Apple ranked fourth.
Booming sales also helped boost the companies’ stock prices: Shares of HP have gained 20% over the past year, Dell’s stock rose 55%, and Apple’s jumped 67%.
“The obvious drivers for last year’s growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked,” IDC vice president Ryan Reith said in a statement. “We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs, and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market. In retrospect, the pandemic not only fueled PC market demand but also created opportunities that resulted in a market expansion.”
The pandemic, which has so far killed almost 2 million people worldwide, prompted lockdowns and school closings around the world starting last January. In the U.S., about 80% of large companies and 45% of small companies switched to at least some remote work, a survey conducted by Harvard Business School found last year. And 93% of U.S. households with school-age children reported some remote learning, according to the Census Bureau.
That prompted a wave of PC buying, from the most expensive laptops to the least expensive Chromebooks. Some PC makers suffered shortages of key parts, particularly processor chips, as factories in Asia also shut down owing to the pandemic, or sales might have been even stronger. But analysts said the shortages should be resolved this year.
“While supply shortages continue to dampen the market in the short term, Canalys believes most wrinkles will be ironed out by the second half of 2021,” analyst Ishan Dutt said in the research firm’s report on 2020 sales. Canalys also concluded that PC sales rose 13% in 2020.