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PC shipments slow, but the market remains strong

IDC reported that global PC shipments fell by 5% in the first three months, but vendors still shipped more than 80 million units for the seventh consecutive quarter.

The pandemic-fueled surge in PC shipments is over as the market settles into slower growth for the next several years.

Global shipments of desktops, laptops and workstations fell by 5.1% in the first quarter, following two years of double-digit growth, market research firm IDC reported this week. Laptop shipments declined year-over-year in the quarter while desktops grew slightly.

But the decline doesn't mean the industry is heading for a downward spiral. Computer makers shipped 80.5 million PCs in the quarter, the seventh consecutive period in which shipments surpassed 80 million -- a feat last accomplished in 2012.

IDC expects the industry to continue topping the 80-million mark for the rest of the year. It forecast the mid to high 80-million range in the second and third quarters and more than 90 million in the fourth quarter.

Despite the high numbers, "this still would result in a slightly down-market over 2021," IDC analyst Ryan Reith said.

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 lockdowns in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China, could cause supply chain and logistical problems that reduce the shipment projections.

"None of those events are tailwinds on the market, so I would expect the 2022 PC market will still decline, but at this stage, we don't have an updated estimate," Reith said.

Currently, 2023 looks like a better year. The chip shortage will constrain consumer buying this year as manufacturers struggle to purchase chips for lower-end PCs favored by most people and the education market.

"Not all consumers want to buy a high-end PC, so this is contributing to the slowdown," Reith said.

IDC expects semiconductors to become more available in 2023, boosting PC shipments to consumers, schools and emerging markets. IDC predicts overall PC shipments will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 2.6% from 2022 to 2026.

PC maker rankings

Rankings among the largest PC manufacturers didn't change last quarter. Lenovo held a 22.7% market share, down 1% from a year ago. HP dropped 3% to 19.7% while Dell rose nearly 2% to 17.1%.

Apple increased its market share by almost 1% to 8.9%. Asus recorded nearly a 1.5% rise to 6.9%, while Acer was flat at 6.8%.

Dell and Apple upped shipments by managing their supply chains "very impressively," Reith said. "As a result, they have been able to get most -- not all -- of their orders fulfilled."

Dell managed to serve its large enterprise customers while Apple met the commercial and consumer demand for its M1-based Macs. The Apple-designed ARM-based M1 chip brought a significant performance boost to MacBooks and iMacs.

During the quarter, Lenovo shipments fell slightly despite a refresh of the company's ThinkPad line. New additions included the first Arm-based business laptop with Microsoft's Pluton security processor for storing credentials. The 13-inch X13s runs Windows 11 and offers up to 28 hours of battery life.

Lenovo also introduced several x86-based ThinkPad models, including the T16, the T14 Gen 3 and the X1 Extreme Gen 5.

Antone Gonsalves is the news director for the networking media group. He has deep and wide experience in tech journalism. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked for UBM's InformationWeek, TechWeb and Computer Reseller News. He has also written for Ziff Davis' PC Week, IDG's CSOonline and IBTMedia's CruxialCIO, and rounded all of that out by covering startups for Bloomberg News. He started his journalism career at United Press International, working as a reporter and editor in California, Texas, Kansas and Florida.

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