PC market to surge in 2021 despite global chip shortage, but other parts in short supply

IDC is projecting strong growth in PC shipments for 2021 even though processors are in short supply. The wild card is whether there will be enough chips for other parts such as power management available.

Record demand for chips but semiconductor shortage continues

PC shipments are expected to surge 18.1% in 2021 as the industry manages to navigate global semiconductor shortages, according to IDC.

Nevertheless, other parts may create havoc for PC shipments.

IDC analysts noted that the PC CPU supply is holding up as it already suffered shortages in 2019. However, the PC market faces increased risks due to lower-priced components.

These components include:

  • Notebook panel driver ICs.
  • Audio codecs.
  • Sensors.
  • Power management ICs.

Those legacy components are worth watching given most of the tech industry is focused on core CPU shortages. 

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If availability for any of those parts falter, PC sales could take a hit. My spot checks indicate that shortages are starting to impact the market. For instance, my local Best Buy had a half dozen signs up for laptop models that weren't available. Samsung is sending out emails about shifting delivery times for its latest Galaxy Book Pro 360.

Mario Morales, IDC's semiconductor analyst, said that the common denominator among parts in short supply are that they use 40nm or older nodes.

Morales noted:

Mature technology nodes account for more than 50% of all the capacity in the semiconductor industry and suppliers are only gradually increasing capacity as they prioritize on the largest segments of their business and invest more on mainstream and leading-edge nodes. IDC expects that shortages will begin to ease by the end of Q3 this year. A broader upstream balance of the industry is not expected until the first half of 2022.

Add it up and inventory is low for all consumer, education and commercial PC markets. Inventory in the channel is well below normal, according to IDC.

One shift that may occur is that tech buyers will opt for desktops instead of laptops.