Personal Computer Market Grew 15% In 2021, Hitting A 10-Year High

The personal computer (PC) market expanded 14.8% in 2021, shipping the largest number of desktops, laptops, and workstations in a single year since 2012, according to data tracker IDC.

Shipments were up nearly 35% from the industry’s low point in 2017, to 349 million units, according to IDC.

It’s a major recovery for a sector that had been written off by technology investors and operators as a sleepy field in decline as recently as a few years ago as smartphones became the most important and highest-volume product in the electronics business.

The recovery has been driven by lockdowns and the rise in remote work and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, as households purchased new laptops and PCs for schoolchildren in virtual classes and businesses bought equipment for employees working from home.

The recovery also happened in a year that was marked by temporary shortages in PCs, especially during the fall, driven by supply constraints from a global microchip shortage.

Some observers cautioned that the sales pace would not be sustainable after the pandemic ends. In December, for example, IDC said the market had pulled passed peak pandemic demand and forecast a slowdown this year (2022).

The five largest PC companies by number of units shipped in 2021 were Lenovo (LNVGY), HP (HPE), Dell (DELL), Apple (AAPL), and Asus, according to IDC. Microsoft (MSFT), which sells the Windows operating system used on the vast majority of PCs, is another major beneficiary of the current PC boom.

Although Microsoft has shifted its focus to cloud services like Azure in recent years, Windows is still a sizable business, generating $5.68 billion U.S. in sales in the third quarter, an increase of 10% from the year-earlier period.