Analyst estimates are all over the place, but consensus is PC sales are up

The PC segment has been slowly declining quarter-on-quarter for years, but COVID-19 has seemingly offered a surge in interest, albeit a short-lived one.

While it appears it is the laptop or notebook products which are single-handedly saving this sub-sector, the glory might be short-lived. All three of the analyst firms suggest the dramatic shift to remote working has provided the lifeline, and it might not be too long before normality returns to the sluggish segment. Fortunes over the short- to mid-term will largely depend on the new working dynamics as the world returns to some semblance of normality.

Analyst Shipments Year-on-year
Canalys 72,922 9.0%
Gartner 64,808 2.8%
IDC 72,261 11.2%

“…mobile PC growth was particularly strong, driven by several factors including business continuity for remote working, online education and consumers’ entertainment needs,” said Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner. “However, this uptick in mobile PC demand will not continue beyond 2020, as shipments were mainly boosted by short-term business needs due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

EMEA led this surge in activity with a 20% year-on-year uplift for the quarter, and while it might continue of the next few months, this is likely to be down to retailers refiling depleted stock.

“Early indicators suggest strong PC shipments for education, enterprise, and consumer, muted somewhat by frozen SMBs,” said Linn Huang, Research VP for Devices and Displays at IDC. “With inventory still back ordered, this goodwill will continue into July. However, as we head deeper into a global recession, the goodwill sentiment will increasingly sour.”

Although a recession is usually a severe negative for this segment, should the remote working trends of COVID-19 continue, more businesses would be forced to purchase products to ensure business continuity.

“Notebooks have singlehandedly pulled the PC market out of depression,” said Rushabh Doshi, Research Director at Canalys. “They have been crucial in ensuring that the service, government and education sectors can continue to function in the face of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty. Vendors and the channel made the necessary changes to ramp up production and delivery of notebooks to the highest level in years.”

Interestingly enough, this temporary resurgence in the PC market has turned the attention of the developer ecosystem also. With more people working from home, new applications and services will emerge. This additional attention won’t necessarily lead to a sustained recovery for the PC segment, but it is a noteworthy development.

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