Coronavirus decimates global PC shipments

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Worldwide PC shipments totalled 51.6 million units in the first quarter of 2020, a 12.3% decline from the first quarter of 2019, according to preliminary results by Gartner.

The market analyst firm says after three consecutive quarters of growth, the worldwide PC market experienced its sharpest decline since 2013 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The single most significant influencing factor for PC shipment decline was the coronavirus outbreak, which resulted in disruptions to both the supply and demand of PCs,” says Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner.

“Following the first lockdown in China in late January, there was lower PC production volume in February that turned into logistics challenges. Once coronavirus-related lockdowns expanded to other regions, there were new, sudden pockets of PC demand for remote workers and online classrooms that PC manufacturers could not keep up with.

“This quarter’s vendor results underscore the growing economic uncertainties that are tightening PC spending, especially among small and midsize businesses. This uncertainty, coupled with the end of the Windows 10 upgrade peak, is causing businesses to shift their IT budgets away from PCs and towards strategic business continuity planning. We will start seeing businesses and consumers alike extending their PC life cycles on a more permanent basis as they focus on preserving cash,” said Kitagawa.

Gartner says despite the impact of COVID-19, the top three vendors’ market share remained unchanged from the previous quarter, adding that they accounted for 65.6% of PC shipments in the first quarter of 2020, up from just over 60% in the first quarter of 2019.

The firm points out that although Lenovo maintained its number one position in the worldwide PC market, its shipments declined 3.2% in the first quarter of 2020 and 22.6% year-over-year in Asia Pacific.

HP had a challenging first quarter, with a 12.1% decline in PC shipments after three consecutive quarters of shipment growth, says Gartner.

According to the firm, HP recorded double digit shipment declines in all key regions, taking the hardest hit in desk-based PCs in Asia Pacific and Japan.

Dell was the only top vendor that showed year-over-year shipment growth – rising 2.2% – despite the impact from COVID-19. Dell’s shipments grew in all regions in the first quarter of 2020, except in Asia Pacific. Growth was particularly strong in the Americas where Dell experienced relatively stable business PC demand until March. The first quarter of 2020 was the company’s ninth consecutive quarter of shipment growth, Gartner says.

Regional response

According to Gartner, PC shipments varied by region depending on the timing of the given government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Because coronavirus impacts were most apparent in the US later on in the first quarter of 2020, it says, the US PC market actually grew 0.8%.

However, it notes, PC shipments showed a steep sequential decline of 30.2% compared to the last quarter.

Dell and HP swapped spots in the US based on shipments, with Dell taking just over 31% of the PC market share.

Asia Pacific showed the worst year-over-year decline of 27.1% since Gartner started tracking the PC market.

“With COVID-19 originating in China, the country was the largest contributor to this decline as all business, government and consumer activities came to a halt in February. Overall PC shipments in China dropped by over 30% compared to a year ago,” Gartner says.

“Desk-based PCs, the primary commercial PC type for the government and education organisations, experienced the biggest drop of nearly 40%. Mobile PCs declined less – 20% – as notebook demands were driven by remote employees and e-learning students.”

Gartner says PC shipments in Europe, Middle East and Africa declined 7% year-over-year to 16.8 million units and will likely continue to decline through 2020.

It explains that the end of the first quarter saw a dramatic drop in both business and consumer PC purchases due to intense COVID-19 related lockdown measures across various countries in the region. 

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