PC sales struggle as shoppers hold out for bargains later this year

A new PC is nice but many consumers are worried about the impact of inflation.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty/MoMo Productions

Worldwide shipments of desktops and notebooks fell 15% year-on-year in Q2 2022 to 70.2 million units, according to new figures from analyst Canalys. 

That's the lowest number of units shipped since Q1 2022 and has come as demand from consumers falls due to inflation fears. 

Analyst firm IDC this week also reported worldwide PC shipments in Q2 2022 declined more than 15% compared to the year prior to 71.3 million units. IDC said consumer demand had weakened while demand from businesses remained more robust despite them delaying purchases. But it also noted supply and logistics problems persisted due to lockdowns in China and continued macro-economic headwinds. 

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Canalys argues that shipments are down mostly because of extended COVID-19 restrictions in China affecting manufacturing. This was compounded by lower purchasing in China, the world's second-largest market for PCs behind the US, due to reduced economic activity. 

"As expected, COVID lockdowns in key regions and cities of China throughout most of Q2 severely affected the manufacturing and export of PCs," said Canalys Analyst Emma Xu

"Disruption to factory and port operations in Shanghai, Kunshan and Jiangsu led to significant delays in orders for all the major PC vendors. Though production and coordination started to improve by the end of May, output was below normal levels throughout Q2."

Canalys says notebook shipments fell 18.6% in Q2 2022 to 54.5 million units. These are down for a third consecutive quarter due to lower purchasing from education customers compared to a year ago. 

Desktops shipments grew 0.6% to 15.6 million units thanks to commercial demand as economies reopen and businesses invest in desktop refreshes and upgrades. 

This signals worse times ahead for Microsoft's OEM revenues, which grew 11% year on year in its FY Q3 2022 earnings period. Microsoft is expecting only single digit growth in Windows OEM revenues in its upcoming FY Q4 2022 earnings.

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As with recent quarters, the one bright spot in the PC market is at the premium end. The main winners here have been Apple and Dell in the US while Chromebook shipments from HP and Lenovo, most of which go the US, have taken a dive since the middle of 2021

Worldwide, Apple isn't a top-five vendor by PC shipments worldwide, according to Canalys. The top five are led by Lenovo with a 25% share, followed by HP (19.2%), Dell (18.9%), Acer (7.3%) and Asus (6.7%). All vendors' shipments were down year on year: HP's shipments declined 27.5% year on year. Acer's were down 18.5%, while Lenovo's declined by 12.4%. Dell shipments declined 5.3% and Asus shipments declined 5.1%. 

IDC ranked Apple as the fifth largest PC vendor worldwide but it shared the spot with Asus. 

Canalys senior analyst, Ishan Dutt, sees inflation harming consumer demand while businesses continue to invest in IT for digital transformation programs despite facing the same inflation risks and the threat of higher interest rates.

"Worsening inflation is the dominant economic factor on consumers' minds, and price increases across a basket of goods and services are relegating spending on PCs and other hardware behind more basic needs," writes Dutt. 

"While the importance of having a top-quality device hasn't diminished, most PC owners with relatively basic computing needs will be content to ride out this period of economic uncertainty and opt to refresh their devices when the pressure on their budgets eases or if significant discounting by vendors and retailers occurs later in the year." 

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