PC market in decline as Chromebook sales fall from pandemic peak

Global PC shipments declined in the first quarter of 2022 as pandemic-related purchases begin to slow, according to reports from research firms Gartner and International Data Corporation (IDC). While IDC reports a total of 80.5 million PC shipments last quarter, Gartner cites a lower figure of 77.5 million, a drop of 7.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2021.

Gartner says a decline in Chromebook shipments weighed heavily on the market: Excluding Chromebooks, the PC market would have increased 3.3 percent year over year. IDC did not include any information on Chromebooks, but it does see a slowdown in purchases from educational institutions, a market that uses more than 40 million Chromebooks for teachers and students. Lenovo was still the best-selling PC brand, followed by HP, Dell, and Apple.

However, Dell, Apple and ASUS were the only brands to see year-over-year growth. Apple should have seen a bump after launching the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros last October, which come with the company’s M1 Pro and M1 Max internal chips. Its new Mac Studio desktop system was released in March, bolstering Apple’s desktop lineup at the end of last quarter and beyond.

Demand for Chromebooks was especially high amid the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, as schools purchased Chromebooks to help transition to remote learning. The PC market, overall, was up 11 percent in 2020, with more than 30 million Chromebooks sold at the time. A shortage in the supply chain caused sales to fall in the third quarter of 2021, but they managed to recover in the last quarter.

Both firms agree that the PC market is starting to level off after two years of rising shipments. Gartner cites the war in Ukraine as a factor that also contributed to the lack of growth last quarter, as many companies stopped shipping their hardware to the country due to economic sanctions.

“The focus should not be on the year-over-year decline in PC volumes because that was to be expected,” Ryan Reith, group vice president at IDC, said in a statement. “The focus needs to be on the PC industry that manages to ship more than 80 million PCs at a time when logistics and supply chain are still a mess, accompanied by numerous geopolitical and pandemic-related challenges.”

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