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PCs and tablets to maintain growth through 2021, but the future is in laptops - IDC forecast

By Ryan Morris-Reade, Wed 25 Aug 2021

According to a new forecast by IDC, global shipments of PCs are expected to grow 14.2% to 347 million units in 2021.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) report, Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, shows the growth numbers are down from IDC's May forecast of 18% growth, with continued supply chain and logistical challenges cited as the main reasons. The tablet market is also expected to grow in 2021 but at a much slower pace of 3.4%.

"We continue to believe the PC and tablet markets are supply-constrained and that demand is still there," says IDC Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers, program VP, Ryan Reith.

"The lengthening of the supply shortages combined with ongoing logistical issues are presenting the industry with some big challenges. However, we believe the vast majority of PC demand is non-perishable, especially from the business and education sectors."

Traditional PCs, including desktops, notebooks, and workstations, are expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2% over the 2021-2025 forecast period, while tablets are expected to decline 1.5%. The forecast finds that despite short-term supply constraints related to panels and ICs, notebooks will remain the main driver of future PC growth.

IDC says personal computing devices have played an instrumental role in many consumer's lives over the last eighteen months. Despite lockdowns and social distancing, they enable individuals to work, learn, game, and connect from home. 

Although COVID-19 cases are resurgent, eventually, a level of normalcy will return. IDC expects that even then, personal computing devices will retain a central role in the personal lives of most.

"How much is this new-found PC centricity worth?" asks IDC devices and displays, research VP, Linn Huang.

"In November 2019, we published our last pre-pandemic forecast, which stretched out to 2023. At that juncture, we projected a total market of 367 million units in 2023. Today, we expect over half a billion units of personal computing devices to be shipped that year. 

"So how much is that compute centricity worth? A simplified view would suggest about 135 million units, or 37% more than the original market forecast," says Huang.

In the latter years of the forecast, consumer spending is expected to rebalance towards travel and leisure, the categories of expenditure that suffered most during the various states of lockdown, and away from technology. And according to IDC, strong quarterly performances over the last year will eventually catch up with the market and drive unreachable comparisons. 

IDC believes a market slowdown is inevitable. However, even when it does occur, it says the total available market for personal computing devices will be significantly greater than if not for the months spent working, learning, gaming, and connecting on these devices during the pandemic.
 

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