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Now there's another thing on Earth that be can seen from space: UK lappy sales in pandemic-struck 2020

Shipments up a whopping 90+% in Q4 despite industry-wide shortages

The one-device-per-person trend caused by the pandemic fuelled a boom in notebook sales across Britain in Q4 that resulted in a near year-on-year doubling of shipment growth.

According to sales data from IDC, almost 4 million PCs were sold in the three months ended 31 December, a jump of 58.5 per cent. Desktops accounted for 439,000 of these, down 33 per cent, and laptops jumped by 90.8 per cent to 3.554 million units.

Liam Hall, senior research analyst at IDC, told us commercial notebooks grew well and even higher growth was reported in the consumer segment. Consumer desktops sales were up on the back of demand from gamers but less interest from corporate customers was evident.

"Overall in the UK we've seen it stronger than Western Europe," he told us.

"A lot of people at home need to have the one device per person rather than one device per household," Hall said. "The main drivers [are] work and study from home, and entertainment plays a big factor in this as well."

Ballooning sales of portable PCs were helped in no small part by the UK Department for Education's Get Help With Technology (GHWT) programme, which aimed to provide laptops to children from underprivileged background who were forced to learn from home under government-imposed lockdowns.


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The programme started in April and hundreds of thousands of laptops have been supplied to date with more to come. GHWT ran into trouble last month when it emerged that some laptops from supplier Tactus Group had landed at schools pre-loaded with malware. The DfE has said it is trying to discover what happened.

Marie-Christine Pygott, senior analyst at Context, agreed UK growth was very strong, and reckoned, according to her figures, that the share of notebook sales to education had gone from a quarter of the enterprise market to 55 per cent.

This was due to the influence of GHWT shipments, which skewed average PC sales prices in the UK, with a year-on-year fall of 8 per cent recorded by Context. Pygott said that ASPs went up when shipments under GHWT scheme were removed from the equation.

For the year, IDC stats show that 12.15 million PCs were shipped to the UK, up 32.3 per cent on 2019. Notebooks units were up around 54 per cent to 10.1 million, and making up the remainder were desktops, down almost 23 per cent.

Relentless demand has continued into 2021 – a point noted by Lenovo recently – with the GHWT programme being expanded, and demand from small businesses creating another "potential wave" of refreshes.

As has been the case for years, demand is forecast to outstrip supply with a relative scarcity of panels due to remain a problem until midsummer. ®


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