New figures for 2020 have revealed how the coronavirus has sharply revived the computer services market. After a decade of gradual decline, In the last three months of 2020, the global market for PCs was an enormous 25% higher than in the same period the previous year. Almost 100million units (excluding tablets) were purchased worldwide during the last quarter alone. On average, 11% more computers shipped in 2020. These figures include desktops and laptops but not smartphones and tablets.
The upsurge in demand came mostly from businesses and educational institutions. Many organisations suddenly had to support remote-working, and although many employees already had home computers there are significant security advantages in supplying company ones onto which IT staff can install standardised security precautions. In addition, many educational establishments – including primary schools, secondary schools and colleges – are still trying to switch to remote-learning. Progress has been painfully slow but there is growing pressure on governments to provide the necessary equipment, staff training and resources to support online lessons, seminars and lectures.
What are people buying?
The sales surge was by no means uniform across devices. In fact, whilst sales of notebooks and mobile workstations increased by almost a quarter in 2020, the number of desktop sales fell about 20%. Fewer workers in offices means less demand for static office desktops. In comparison, Chromebooks (laptops powered by Google’s Chrome OS) saw a staggering increase of over 80%.
There were signs, however, that more PCs are being bought more for gaming as people look for leisure outlets during lockdown. The high price of console games may be another factor.
Which manufacturers are benefiting most?
The sudden demand has put pressure on manufacturers to keep pace with production at a time of supply chain problems. As a result, there are signs of prices rising (especially, it seems, in the UK).
Over the year, Lenovo was the leader in the PC market selling 72.6 million units globally (a market share of around 24%). 23.1million of those were sold in the last quarter alone – suggesting the trend is still accelerating. HP was second, Dell third, Apple fourth and Acer fifth. All these manufacturers have successfully scaled-up production, so far.
Long-live the PC!
In recent years, many commentators have been predicting the gradual demise of computers in favour of smaller units like smartphones, tablets and personal assistants. The events of the last year mean this prediction will have to be profoundly revised. Smaller devices may be good for shopping and browsing, but they are no substitute when it comes to home-working and learning.
We can also be certain that organisations developing vaccines or writing AI-driven software to track coronavirus infections aren’t doing it on an iPhone.
The best PCs on the market today
Now that the country is used to remote working it is likely to become the norm for many of us long after the coronavirus has disappeared. If your organisation or family still needs to upgrade its computers it might be wise to buy now in case prices rise further.
The best all-round home desktop is probably a close race between the traditional tower Dell XPS 8940 and the elegant all-in-one iMac 27-inch. For home-working, the HP Elite Dragonfly is a great choice, as are the Apple MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15.
For gaming, three top options are the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop, the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10, and the HP Omen Desktop PC. For casual personal use, great options include the Dell XPS13, Acer Swift 3, and Apple MacBook Air M1.
As everything becomes increasingly dependent on digital devices, business IT support becomes ever more important. Many in-house IT departments are ill-equipped for the shift to remote working and learning, so many businesses and educational establishments should be looking seriously at outsourcing more of their new IT responsibilities.