Laptops are on fire! In a good way (if you're selling). PC sales race to highest growth rate since 2011

Response to pandemic elevates simple laptop to centre of universe... Dell only vendor to shrink, says Canalys

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Canalys Forum 2020 - Updated Fuelled by the pandemic, demand for notebooks continued to go through the roof in Q3 as the PC industry grew at its fastest pace in almost nine years - Dell was the only major top five player to report declines.

According to global stats collated by analyst Canalys, shipments to retailers and distributors rocketed 12.7 per cent year-on-year to 79.2 million units, with notebook and mobile workstations leaping 28.3 per cent to a little over 64 million. The rest of the sales came from desktops and desktop workstations, representing a fall for that segment of 26 per cent.

Overall, this was the highest growth rate since the holiday period in Q4 2011 and was caused by the work- and learn-from-home trends seen across vast swathes of the world in response to coronavirus.

... we can barely fulfil ... 60 or 70 per cent of the demand today...

"Vendors, the supply chain, and the channel have now had time to find their feet and allocate resources towards supplying notebooks, which continue to see massive demand from both businesses and consumers," said Ishan Dutt, analyst at Canalys.

"After prioritising high-value markets and large customers in Q2, vendors have now been able to turn their attention to supplying a wider range of countries as well as SMBs that faced difficulty securing devices earlier this year. Governments, which have realised the importance of PC access in maintaining economic activity during this time, have intervened with financial support or even full-scale device deployments," he added.

This was particularly noticeable in the education sector, for example, where the UK government allocated 100,0000 notebooks for students to facilitate the returns to classrooms, he said.

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Lenovo reported year-on-year shipment growth of 11.4 per cent, taking its total haul to 19.2 million units. HP was up 11.9 per cent to 18.66 million but Dell, according to Canalys results, declined 0.5 per cent to 11.98 million.

The Register asked both Dell and Canalys to explain this anomaly but neither has responded. Dell was in the same boat as the other vendors with regard to component shortages as demand soared in March and April when government lockdowns began. But given its relative size as a chip consumer, Dell should have been able to secure adequate volumes to be able to compete with Lenovo and HP.

Che Min Tu, senior veep and chief operating officer for Lenovo's Intelligent Devices Group, said at the Canalys forum last week that the vendor is still wrestling with shortages of integrated circuits, CPUs and panels.

"If you see demand compared to supply, we barely can fulfil probably 60 or 70 per cent of the demand today," he said.

Canalys numbers show that Apple grew 13.2 per cent to 6.37 million units in Q3 and Acer jumped 15 per cent to 5.63 million. The "Others" section was also up - unheard of in recent times - by 25.8 per cent to 17.27 million units.

"The lasting effects of this pandemic on the way people work, learn and collaborate will create significant opportunities for PC vendors in the coming years," added Rushabh Doshi, Canalys research director.

He added that "beyond the PC itself, there will be an increased need for collaboration accessories, new services, subscription packages and a strong focus on endpoint security.

"These trends will most benefit vendors who provide holistic solutions that enable their customers to make structural changes to their operations. Although the focus has been on commercial PC demand in the last two quarters, consumer spending during the holiday season is set to bring more joy to the PC market." ®

Updated on 13 October at 9.10BST to add

Dell sent us a statement:

"The share loss can be attributed to Dell’s smaller mix of low-cost PCs and Chromebooks relative to other vendors, so we did not benefit as much from back-to-school consumer purchases. Much of the Q3 industry PC shipment growth occurred in lower cost consumer PCs for virtual learning."

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