PC Demand During Pandemic Fuels Strongest U.S. Market Growth in a Decade

A surge in remote work, study and home entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic boosted personal computer sales in the third quarter and drove the strongest growth in a decade in the U.S., according to industry data.

Much of the growth came from Chromebooks, with a roughly 90% surge in the third quarter driven by distance learning, especially in the U.S., according to preliminary data from

Gartner Inc.,

one of the firms that tracks PC shipments.

While Gartner doesn’t include Chromebooks in its traditional PC market results, on Monday it said that including Chromebooks, world-wide PC shipments rose around 9% year over year in the quarter, with Chromebooks representing about 11% of the combined PC/Chromebook market.

Data from research firm Canalys showed notebook and mobile workstation shipments also driving growth in the quarter, while sales of desktops and desktop workstations declined 26%.

International Data Corp. recorded growth in notebook shipments, driven by consumer sales and education, but the desktop segment saw a year-over-year decline with gaming offering some respite.

The pandemic, the data show, has put PCs back in the spotlight.

“It used to be the case that smartphones were king,” said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC’s research manager for Mobile Device Trackers.

Mr. Ubrani noted smartphone shipments declined in the second quarter and are expected to decline in the third quarter.

“At the start of the pandemic,” he said, people “pulled out their old PCs in many cases and they realized that this PC is really too old to be productive.”

Overall, PC shipments rose 3.6% to 71.4 million units in the third quarter, driven by an 11.4% growth in the U.S., the first time in a decade that the region has seen double-digit growth, according to preliminary data from Gartner.

IDC pegged the increase at 14.6% to 81.3 million units, also based on preliminary data.

“Had the market not been hampered by component shortages, notebook shipments would have soared even higher during the third quarter as market appetite was yet unsatiated,” Mr. Ubrani said.

But “given that the shortages have been due more to a shortfall of business planning than a technical glitch, we do not anticipate a sudden surge in capacity,” said Linn Huang, IDC’s research vice president for devices and displays.

In the U.S., for example, there has been a shortage of Chromebooks, and schools have been scrambling to get enough devices because of the high demand and supply-chain disruptions during the pandemic.

Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, said that while supply-chain disruptions tied to the pandemic have largely been resolved, shortages of components such as panels remained in the third quarter.

Lenovo Group Ltd.

was ranked as the No. 1 vendor, followed by

HP Inc.

Dell Technologies Inc.,

Apple Inc.,


Acer Inc.

rounded out the top five.

Much of the difference in the data from the data providers comes from how each company defines PCs. Hardware makers in recent years have increasingly blurred the lines between personal computers and devices such as tablets.

Write to Maria Armental at [email protected]

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Appeared in the October 13, 2020, print edition as ‘PC Sales Surge During Pandemic.’

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