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The Pandemic Drove the Strongest PC Growth in a Decade

By Evan Niu, CFA - Jan 15, 2021 at 8:00AM

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The last time that the PC market grew at a comparable rate was back in 2010.

Given the massive shift to remote working and learning that the world underwent last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it should come as no surprise that the global PC market enjoyed robust growth after years of relative stagnation. Demand for desktops and laptops skyrocketed as consumers and workers adapted, with many vendors struggling to keep up with the surge. In fact, it was the best growth that the market registered in a decade.

Here's what tech investors need to know.

M1-powered Mac Mini setup

Image source: Apple.

Party like its 2010

Earlier this week, market researcher IDC released its estimates for the PC market for the fourth quarter and full-year 2020. Global PC volumes jumped 26% in Q4 to 91.6 million units, which brought full-year volumes to 302.6 million. That represents about 13.1% growth for all of 2020 compared to 2019.

Under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, even low-single-digit percentage gains would be worth celebrating -- the PC market grew a modest 2.7% from 2018 to 2019, which was the first full year of PC growth since 2011. The last time that the PC market grew by this much was in 2010, when PC shipments jumped by 13.7%, according to IDC.

Here were the top PC players last year for the fourth quarter and full-year 2020.


Q4 2020 Shipments

Q4 2020 Market Share

2020 Shipments

2020 Market Share

Lenovo (LNVGY 1.95%)

23.1 million


77.7 million


HP (HPQ -3.02%)

19.1 million


67.6 million


Dell (DELL -2.56%)

15.8 million


50.3 million


Apple (AAPL 0.17%)

7.3 million


23.1 million



6.6 million


21 million



19.6 million


67.9 million



91.6 million


302.6 million


Data source: IDC.

"Every segment of the supply chain was stretched to its limits as production once again lagged behind demand during the quarter," IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani said in a statement. "Not only were PC makers and [original design manufacturers] dealing with component and production capacity shortages, but logistics remained an issue as vendors were forced to resort to air freight, upping costs at the expense of reducing delivery times."

IDC doesn't think the boom will end, either, with IDC exec Ryan Reith adding that "all signs indicate this surge still has a way to go." In addition to the remote work and learning catalysts, the consumer market for things like gaming PCs and monitors remains extremely strong, and Chromebooks are expanding beyond the core educational market where those devices are so popular.

That echoes sentiments that Apple CEO Tim Cook recently expressed. "Normal will become something different because I think people are learning that there are aspects of this that work well," Cook said late last year. "And so I don't believe that we are going to go back to where we were."

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Apple Inc. Stock Quote
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HP Inc. Stock Quote
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Lenovo Group Stock Quote
Lenovo Group
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Dell Technologies Inc.
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