The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed a secular shift to remote work, and all those employees need computers to stay productive. PC volumes surged in the third quarter due to that trend, according to recent estimates from market researcher Canalys. Worldwide unit volumes jumped 13% to 79.2 million, the strongest growth that the PC market has seen in a decade.

Here's who came out on top.

Person sitting on a floor with a laptop open in their lap, along side a notepad, a coffee mug, and a smartphone

COVID-19 has caused a broad shift to remote work. Image source: Getty Images.

Remote work is here to stay

Companies and workers are investing heavily in remote-work setups, with demand concentrated in laptops and mobile workstations. Laptop volumes hit 64 million, approaching the current quarterly record set in Q4 2011, while desktop units declined by 26%. Here are the top vendors for the third quarter.

Vendor

Q3 2020 Shipments

Q3 2020 Market Share

Growth (YOY)

Lenovo

19.3 million

24.3%

11.4%

HP (NYSE:HPQ)

18.7 million

23.6%

11.9%

Dell (NYSE:DELL)

12 million

15.1%

(0.5%)

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

6.4 million

8.1%

13.2%

Acer

5.6 million

7.1%

15%

Others

17.3 million

21.8%

25.8%

Total

79.2 million

100%

12.7%

Data source: Canalys. YOY = year over year.

Dell was the only vendor that saw unit volumes stagnate. The other top players enjoyed double-digit growth.

Apple is expected to formally announce its first Mac powered by Apple silicon in November, Bloomberg reports. The Cupertino tech giant had laid out its plans for that transition, which should take about two years, over the summer. Apple is hosting its virtual iPhone event later today.

Much of the consumer electronics supply chain was disrupted during the early stages of the outbreak, but manufacturers have been ramping production back up in recent months. Many schools have also been scrambling to secure notebook computers for students that are learning remotely. The economy has fallen into a recession during the crisis, and Canalys expects IT spending to help drive the economic recovery.

"Vendors, the supply chain, and the channel have now had time to find their feet and allocate resources toward supplying notebooks, which continue to see massive demand from both businesses and consumers," Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt commented in a release. "After prioritizing high-value markets and large customers in Q2, vendors have now been able to turn their attention to supplying a wider range of countries as well as [small and medium-sized businesses] that faced difficulty securing devices earlier this year."

The market researcher expects the pandemic to have "lasting effects" on how people work and learn, which could provide opportunities for PC makers for years. Additionally, collaboration accessories will also enjoy robust demand, and companies will need to focus on cybersecurity for all those remote devices.

Looking ahead, PC demand in the fourth quarter is expected to shift from commercial customers to consumers that are buying gifts over the holidays, according to Canalys.

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