Gartner's latest figures show 10% boost in 2021 PC sales, despite slowing fourth quarter

The company is banking on the Q4 2021 slowdown as the bellwether that many have been predicting will foretell the end of pandemic-driven PC sales growth.

Gartner's latest measurement of global PC sales saw a 10% spike in total shipments during the 2021 calendar year, despite a fourth-quarter drop of 5% year over year. This decline marked the first negative movement after six consecutive quarters of growth brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic

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According to the measurement company, a total of 339.8 million PCs were shipped in 2021, compared to 2020's 309.1 million. 

The biggest seller was once again Lenovo, which accounted for 84 million shipments and 24.7% of the market. It was followed by HP at 74.2 million (21.8% share) and Dell in third with 59.7 million (17.6% share). Apple and Acer were neck-and-neck for fourth and fifth place, respectively. Apple moved 25.9 million units (7.6% share), while Acer shipped 24.3 million (7.2% share). Lastly, sixth-place Asus sold 21.7 million (6.4% share). 

Despite every one of these entrants having enjoyed significant shipment growth for the full year, Lenovo, HP, and Acer all saw their shipments decline, year over year, for the fourth quarter. Gartner placed the blame for this on "ongoing supply chain issues and the collapse in demand for Chromebooks." It went on to predict that this quarterly downturn "likely signifies the end of the massive and unexpected growth in PC demand triggered by the pandemic." 

This prognostication is in sharp contrast to Canalys' recent take, which included expectations of continual, strong growth for the PC market in 2022 on the back of premium offerings. 

It is worth noting that the fourth quarter that triggered Gartner's more pessimistic outlook was far worse for PC makers when the scope of its measurement is limited to the US. Domestic PC sales plummeted for some makers there, with Acer seeing a staggering 40% dropoff from their Q4 2020 numbers. Lenovo and HP were far behind with 35.8% and 34.8% declines, respectively. Only Apple showed year-over-year growth in the US for the fourth quarter, raising its shipments by 6.7%. 

Only time will tell whether Gartner's discouraging analysis of Q4 2021 performance or Canalys' more optimistic outlook proves to be the better prognostication. 

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