Now and next for the PC industry – executive summary

Tuesday, December 15 2020

COVID-19 drove the PC market, which includes desktops, notebooks and tablets, to its strongest ever period of growth as people around the world were forced to learn, work, create and consume content from home. In this research paper, Canalys reveals how the PC industry will be transformed forever – and how to capitalize on this change.

The latest Canalys Special Report investigates the four growth trends for 2021 and beyond:

  • Working from home.
  • Learning from home.
  • Device as a service (DaaS).
  • Emerging opportunities.


The COVID-19 pandemic generated unprecedented demand for personal computing devices as people around the world adjusted to learning, working, and creating and consuming content from the confines of their homes. This demand was the primary driver behind the growth of the worldwide PC market in 2020. While production disruptions due to lockdowns in China were a cause for concern in Q1 2020, and CPU and panel shortages continue to plague supply, the worst is definitely over as 2020 draws to a close.

  • Total shipments of desktops, notebooks and tablets will reach 458 million units in 2020, up 17% on 2019.
  • Shipments in Q4 2020 alone will increase by over 35% to hit 143 million units.
  • A total of 301 million notebooks and desktops will ship in 2020, an increase of 13% on 2019.
  • The number is expected to grow 3% to 310 million in 2021.
  • The market will remain buoyed by the short-term opportunity of learning and working from home, with the long-term outlook improving dramatically as the installed base of PCs balloons.

With granular data and expert analysis, the full 29-page research paper answers your most important questions:

  • What are Canalys’ forecasts for the global PC market, including notebooks, desktops and tablets?
  • What is the size of the PC refresh market in 2021 and beyond?
  • How has the pandemic affected Chromebook and tablet sales?
  • What are the most exciting emerging opportunities?
  • Where are the opportunities in device as a service?
  • How will vaccine roll-outs affect PC trends?
  • What must PC vendors do to resolve the issues hampering the industry?

Request your copy of the full report now!

Deep dives into trends in major markets

United States: With COVID-19 infections remaining high as 2020 comes to an end, the US will continue to see strong short-term demand for PCs to support disrupted businesses and households. Major vendors and the channel report order backlogs that will carry over from 2020 well into the first half of next year.

Western Europe: Western Europe, along with the US, will be a strong contributor to the immense growth of the PC market in Q4 2020 and the first half of 2021. PC vendors have been struggling to meet the tremendous demand in major markets, such as France, Germany and the UK, especially for notebooks and tablets.

People’s Republic of China (mainland): China’s swift and assertive actions have ensured that day-to-day operations in almost all parts of the country were back to normal quickly. With the government accelerating its digital education plans and parents now relying on PCs for after-school learning, the long-term opportunity in China can be split into PCs for commercial use and PCs for learning.

Japan: Long-term remote working is not expected to gain as much traction in Japan as in other major PC markets due to a more entrenched office culture and less conducive living arrangements in terms of availability of sufficient workspace. But Canalys does expect some permanent level of increased flexible working arrangements.

Asia Pacific: Lockdowns due to COVID-19 played a major role in most Asia Pacific markets, such as India and Indonesia, where shipments fell slightly in 2020 despite heavy demand for client PCs. Only certain industries, such as IT and business services, have embraced remote working.

Latin America: Stronger economies will grow PC shipments, while others are expected to shrink due to prolonged lockdowns that have affected the overall economies in these markets. Despite high demand for PCs, the region has seen depressed shipments in Q1 and Q2 due to lower priority given by OEMs.

Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa: Demand for PCs in this region, while still higher than in 2019, has been relatively subdued. Consumers have moved to tablets, especially for remote learning and some business digitalization activities that do not require heavy computing power. This has made tablets the major growth driver in CEMA.

How will workforce dynamics change post COVID-19?

Canalys has identified five broad personas within the workforce. These will be in a state of flux over the next 12 months depending on the industry and stage of response to COVID-19 in each country, which could also be affected by further localized or national lockdowns if infection rates reaccelerate.

Assessing the working-from-home opportunity around the world

Four types of markets: In the full report, Canalys proposes four market groups that describe the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the short-term and long-term opportunities for the PC ecosystem. Capitalizing on the working-from-home opportunity will require different strategies for each of these four groups.

Inside the remote-learning opportunity

Four distinct groups: Countries are taking significantly different approaches to digital education, which demands different strategies to succeed in these markets. Canalys proposes four market groups that describe the effect of the pandemic on the short-term and long-term opportunities for the PC ecosystem.


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