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Computer shipments were highest in a decade in 2020

"Every segment of the supply chain was stretched to its limits"

Traditional PCs (inclusive of desktops, notebooks, and workstations) shipments hit a decade-high in 2020, according to preliminary data out today from IDC, with Q4 shipments alone of 91.6 million units -- despite supply chains stretched to their limits by the impact of the pandemic.

Lenovo, HP and Dell were the top three in units sold in 2020, shipping 72 million, 67 million, and 50 million units respectively in FY2020. (IDC tracks shipments to distribution channels or end users and "traditional PCs" as desktops, notebooks, and workstations (not tablets or servers).

Supply chains were desperately tight, the market intelligence company noted however, with Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC's Mobile Device Trackers, saying "every segment of the supply chain was stretched to its limits as production once again lagged behind demand."

He added: "Not only were PC makers and ODMs dealing with component and production capacity shortages, but logistics remained an issue as vendors were forced to resort to air freight, upping costs."

Across the chip sector in particular, supply chains remain an issue, with Micron's CEO this week pointing in the DRAM and NAND specialist's earnings to "general tightness in the foundry space" and Bloomberg reporting that bottlenecks have "snarled the flow of chips not just to cars, but also in Xboxes and Playstations and even certain iPhones" as foundries run at capacity.

PC shipments in 2020

The last time the PC market grew so fast was in 2010 (13.7%). There have been six years of PC market decline, in the decade since.

"Demand is pushing the PC market forward and all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go," said Ryan Reith, program vice president with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. "The obvious drivers for last year's growth centered around work from home and remote learning needs, but the strength of the consumer market should not be overlooked.

He added: "We continue to see gaming PCs and monitor sales at all-time highs and Chrome-based devices are expanding beyond education into the consumer market.... the pandemic not only fueled PC market demand but also created opportunities that resulted in a market expansion."

See also: Pandemic, what pandemic? Mobile World Congress to return (in meatspace) to Barcelona in June.