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Global PC market thrives despite semiconductor shortages

By Catherine Knowles, 27 May 2021

Expert analysts find that despite ongoing concerns around semiconductor shortages the PC market continues to be one of the many consumer technology markets that is thriving.

According to a new forecast from the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, shipments of PCs are expected to grow 18.1% in 2021 with shipments of just over 357 million units.

While IDC still expects PC growth to drop slightly in 2022 (-2.9%), the overall five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) remains positive at 3%.

As the market progresses there is some common ground among the three major segments in the PC market: consumer, education, and commercial, IDC finds.

Ultimately, all of these are in desperate need of inventory.

From IDC's perspective, the consumer segment has the biggest upside looking forward compared to pre-pandemic levels, followed by education, and then commercial.

Most regions around the world are still carrying channel inventory that is well below normal and cancelled orders are not part of today's discussions. Demand remains high and supply remains constrained, IDC states.

IDC research manager for Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers Jitesh Ubrani says, "As the component shortages continue into next year, we anticipate at least some of the buyers will settle for desktops in place of notebooks as the urgency of demand for any kind of PC remains quite high.

"Longer term, the consumer refresh cycle is also expected to be pulled in slightly as the pandemic has raised the profile of PCs and consumers continue to spend more time and dollars on PC gaming and content consumption."

IDC program vice president for Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers Ryan Reith says, "We continue to get an abundance of questions about the growing semiconductor shortage and its impact on PCs, but it is important to peel back the onion because there is a lot happening underneath the PC supply chain.

"We don't debate that the overall semiconductor market is constrained right now, but for the overall PC market it is a very different narrative than the years leading up to the pandemic.

"Prior to 2020, the market was undergoing CPU shortages and to a lesser extent tight memory and panel supply.

"Now the focus is around lower-priced components like notebook panel driver ICs, audio codecs, sensors, and power management ICs (PMICs). Nonetheless, without 100% of the parts; a finished system will not ship, so a bottleneck is a bottleneck."

On the supply chain constraints, IDC program vice president for Semiconductors Mario Morales says, "There is a common denominator across the parts in short supply (auto ICs, sensors, PMICs, display drivers), which is that they use the same technology of 40nm or older nodes.

"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 prioritise 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."

IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker gathers data in more than 90 countries and provides detailed information on the global personal computing device market.

This includes data and insight into global trends around desktops, notebooks, detachable tablets, slate tablets, and workstations.

PCs include desktops, notebooks, and workstations and do not include tablets or x86 servers. Detachable tablets and slate tablets are part of the Personal Computing Device Tracker but are not addressed in this information.

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