2020 was the best year for PC shipments in a decade

The industry shipped 90.3 million units in Q4 2020.

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

The PC industry ended 2020 with another strong quarterly performance, capping off one of the best years for computers in recent memory. According to Canalys, PC shipments grew by 25 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2020. In total, the industry shipped a record 90.3 million desktops, notebooks and workstations. In turn, those numbers helped the industry end 2020 on a strong note, with shipments increasing by 11 percent year-over-year to a total just shy of 300 million units for the year. That represents the best full-year growth for the PC market since 2010 and its highest shipment volume since 2014, according to Canalys.

In 2020, notebooks accounted for 79 percent of all PC shipments. In fact, the category is singlehandedly responsible for all the growth the industry saw throughout the year. While shipments of desktops fell by 20 percent over the last calendar year, shipments of notebook and mobile workstations increased by 44 percent, reaching 235.1 million for the year.

From a manufacturer standpoint, Lenovo came in first, shipping 23 million units for the quarter and 72 million for the year. No surprise there, the company has been dominant in the space for years. Looking at the other top five players, what stands out is the quarter and year Apple and Acer had. Despite coming in fourth and fifth respectively, they experienced the most growth. In particular, Apple’s shipment volume grew by 45 percent annually and 16.6 percent year-on-year in Q4 2020. Canalys didn’t speak to Apple’s numbers specifically, but the combination of demand for WFH devices and pent-up enthusiasm for the company’s M1 Macs at the tail end of the year is almost certainly what helped push the company over the top. With more Apple Silicon computers on the way, the company is in a good position to continue growing its share of the market.

With COVID-19 vaccines on the way, it might be tempting to think Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Acer won’t be able to repeat, but Canalys is bullish on the industry’s prospects. “PCs are here to stay,” Research Director Rushabh Doshi declared. “Innovations in chipsets, operating systems, connectivity and form factors will take center stage as the PC industry caters to a broader range of customers that bring with them new behaviors and use cases,” analyst Ishan Dutt added.