PC sales inch upwards as market starts to upgrade its hardware

Analysts hoping Windows 11 refresh adds fuel to fire, as OS market share finally on rise

Typical demand for new and faster PCs is returning to the market, Canalys principal analyst Ishan Dutt tells The Register after he totted up a third straight quarter of growth following several woeful years in the sector.

The back-to-school season has been partly responsible for this renewed demand according to Dutt.

Canalys said in its latest report that the PC market grew 3.4 percent year-over-year in the second calendar quarter - similar to the growth seen in the first quarter and the fourth quarter of last year. Laptops and other mobile PCs led the pack with four percent annual growth while desktop shipments ticked up just one percent.

However the market is still down heavily from its highs during the pandemic, when total PC shipments peaked at 80 million in Q1 2022. At 62.8 million shipments in Q2 2024, the industry is still reeling from the double digit shrinks it experienced in much of 2022 and 2023.

Brand-by-brand, most grew by low to mid-single digit percentages, such as Lenovo, HP, and Apple. Asus, however, saw the biggest growth compared to Q2 of last year at a whopping 17.3 percent. Meanwhile, Dell shrunk slightly at -2.4 percent.

"The market turnaround is coinciding with exciting announcements from vendors and chipset manufacturers as their AI PC roadmaps transition from promise to reality," Dutt said.

"The quarter culminated with the launch of the first Copilot+ PCs powered by Snapdragon processors and more clarity around Apple's AI strategy with the announcement of the Apple Intelligence suite of features for Mac, iPad and iPhone."

IDC also released PC shipment figures for Q2, and agreed the market had grown by about three percent. In its view, Q2 was able to keep up the pace thanks largely to a commercial sector refresh, rather than from individual consumers. Growing excitement around the earliest AI PCs powered by chips like Intel's Core Ultra also played a role, but IDC noted that plenty of non-AI PCs were moving volume. 

Windows 11 tailwind coming up...

Canalys says the PC industry will soon enjoy what it terms its "biggest tailwind": the Windows 11 refresh. The analyst firm expects Windows 10's impending end-of-life date in October 2025 to be a big motivating factor for switching to Windows 11.

"A greater proportion of the current Windows 10 installed base will face security or cost issues from lapsing the end-of-service and incurring extended support fees," Dutt told The Register. "We expect most of the upcoming market growth to be driven by the commercial segment, where these concerns are more elevated."

Dutt also explained that some users who want to upgrade to Windows 11 may not have compatible hardware, and thus would likely need to buy a new PC. A poll of channel partners indicates that a "significant portion" of customers intend to upgrade their device within the next year, some of which wanted to upgrade earlier but decided not to due to the mediocre economy of the last two years.

Until recently, Microsoft has had a very difficult time getting Windows 11 to replace Windows 10, which is still used far more than its predecessor nearly three years after the introduction of Redmond's latest operating system. The combination of AI features, new hardware, and Windows 10's old age may finally boost Windows 11 and the PC market as a whole.

Perhaps as a result of these factors, Windows 11 is on the rise having gained two points of market share at Windows 10's expense during June. Although two percent may not sound like much, it's an amount that likely represents at least a million PCs. Should Windows 11 continue at this rate, it may nab the number one spot... at some point.

On the other hand, there's not exactly a killer feature for either Windows 11 or AI PCs in general (least of all moribund Recall), and for end users that are content with their older Windows 10 devices, it could be hard convincing them to switch over if they're not strong-armed into it by the end of support for Windows 10. ®

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