Consumer Electronics

PC Sales Skyrocket

People who need to work at home apparently need new personal computers (PCs). At least that is the takeaway from a new International Data Corporation (IDC) report on traditional PC sales in the second quarter. An army of people had moved their computing to smartphones and tablets, so the news is doubly welcome.

The IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker offered preliminary results for the second quarter, and shipments roses 11.2% to 72.3 million units.

Supply was mostly available to meet the massive demand as the ability to ship PC via air and sea increased over the course of the quarter. Summing up the trend, Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers, said: “The strong demand driven by work-from-home as well as e-learning needs has surpassed previous expectations and has once again put the PC at the center of consumers’ tech portfolio.” Researchers added that supply was not enough to offset all demand, so early third-quarter shipments should stay strong.

Among the companies that benefitted most from the trend were Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), which makes operating systems, and Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DELL) and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), which are among the world’s largest manufacturers. Dell and HP in particular have suffered as computing has migrated to smartphones. This trend is nearly a decade old.

HP shipped the largest number of PCs over the course of the period. Its shipments rose 17.7%, much higher than the industry average, to 18 million units. That pushed its market share worldwide from 23.6% to 25.0%.

The second-largest winner, which did not keep pace with the industry’s growth, was electronics maker Lenovo, which years ago bought the International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) PC business. It was allowed to use the IBM brand for several years and then started to use the name of its parent. Its unit shipments rose 7.45% to 17.4 million units. Despite the fact that the company is based in China, its sales reach worldwide.

In third place, Dell shipped 12 million units, up an extremely small 3.5%. That made it the loser among the largest manufacturers.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), which was once boxed out of sales of traditional PCs because of its incompatible operating system, led the pack of major manufacturers based on unit shipments. Its shipments rose 36% to 5.6 million. Although the sales of Macs are a modest portion of Apple’s overall sales, the increase is important because of the slip in sales of the iPhone over the past several quarters.

Two things remain to be seen. The first is whether the global pandemic lockdown will keep people at home, which should drive demand higher for at least part of the year. The other is whether people will turn to smartphones again as superfast 5G connections make smartphones more useful because, among other things, they can download files more quickly.

The PC business, which had attrition in sales that lasted several years, will take the new trend, even if it lasts for only a short time.