PC sales start to ebb as pandemic buying spree ends: IDC

Analyst says it's not a 'downward spiral' as sales are still defying predictions

Shipments of PCs have finally slowed down after two years of double-digit growth, declining worldwide by 5.1 per cent year-on-year in Q1 2022, market research firm International Data Corp (IDC) said on Monday.

While the decline reflects both rising costs and market saturation in some segments, IDC reassured it in no way represents a "downward spiral." For one, even though notebook PCs declined, desktops grew slightly. For another, the numbers exceeded earlier forecasts.

Vendors still shipped over 80 million desktops, notebooks and workstations during the quarter – and did so for a seventh consecutive quarter. Such a feat hasn't happened since 2012.

Sales may have been stronger had the world not been facing unprecedented supply chain and logistic challenges, alongside geopolitical and pandemic-related issues, explained IDC veep Ryan Reith.

"We have witnessed some slowdown in both the education and consumer markets, but all indicators show demand for commercial PCs remains very strong. We also believe that the consumer market will pick up again in the near future. The result of 1Q22 was PC shipment volumes that were near record levels for a first quarter," said Reith.

IDC research manager Jay Chou pointed out that pent-up demand remains unfulfilled – particularly in emerging markets among buyers of higher-end products. If vendors can ship kit to those markets, it will offset the slowing sales trend.

As for those emerging economies, many of those lagging back orders have already been filled in Asia Pacific (APAC). IDC said last month that the APAC region had peaked in 2021, as it grew 15.9 per cent year-on-year to 120.3 million units. IDC analyst Matthew Ong credited that growth to backlog order fulfilments and inventory refreshments.

Globally, Lenovo had the highest market share (22.7 per cent) for 1Q22, followed by HP (19.7 per cent), Dell (17.1 per cent), Apple (8.9 per cent) and a tie for fifth place between Asus and Acer who each took around 6.9 per cent. Those numbers reflected a decline in growth for Lenovo, HP, and Acer, and positive growth for Dell, Apple and Asus. HP declined the most with -17.8 per cent growth year-on-year, while Asus grew the most, at 17.7 per cent.

Rankings among the five stayed mostly the same since 2021. The only change was Asus's appearance in the top five – even if just as a tie with Acer.

Lenovo experienced record PC sales in 2021 with shipments hitting 82.1 million thanks to increasing time spent working from home.

Lenovo has also managed to secure supplies such as AMD's Ryzen Threadripper processors, leaving some companies to fear losing workstation sales to the Chinese-American company.

HP may have struggled to shift PCs, but did receive perhaps the ultimate investment accolade after news emerged of a purchase of 121 million shares by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway last week. Buffett is famously averse to tech stocks, so the implied endorsement of an HP purchase saw the company's share price climb ten per cent. ®

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