PC shipments see their largest drop in four years due to COVID-19

This is despite surging sales as people work from home.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Many suspected PC shipments would take a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, but now it’s clearer as to what the damage was. Canalys estimates that computer shipments fell a steep 8 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2020 as Chinese factories stayed shut for a while after the Lunar New Year. Intel chip shortages from a rough transition to 10-nanometer manufacturing didn’t help, either. The decline was the steepest since the start of 2016, when Canalys recorded a 12 percent plunge.

Apple was the hardest hit among the top five, with shipments tumbling 21 percent compared to the start of 2019. However, everyone but Dell (which saw a 1.1 percent growth) was suffering, with HP and Acer seeing drop over 10 percent. Even frontrunner Lenovo saw shipments drop 4.4 percent.

The one consolation: actual sales are up. Companies and staff scrambled to buy PCs when COVID-19 forced them to work from home, while parents bought computers for kids attending remote classes. However, that kind of surge isn’t expected to last. Canalys was bracing for a “significant downturn” in the second quarter as the initial rush cooled off and the realities of a sudden recession hit the market. The PC world is once again in a slump, and there aren’t signs of recovery in the near future.

PC shipment estimates for Q1 2020