Thanks to the Covid-19 boost, demand for PCs and laptops has been surprisingly strong in 2020. At the beginning of this year, most PC forecasters suggested that unit sales of PC’s and laptops in 2020 would be down anywhere from -3% to -5%.
It now looks like sales of PCs and laptops could be in the positive next year slightly and total 270-280 million PCs While this demand is welcome, the big question is, will this type of growth continue?
Most of the primary industry players believe that demand will continue to be strong. Businesses will continue to buy updated PCs and laptops for those forced to work at home at least through mid-year. However, demand for major IT refreshes seems to be soft for 2021, making accurate forecasting of 2021 PC demand difficult at this time.
Thanks to some research I am doing with a former CRM consulting colleague, I was able to talk to three high-level IT executives over the last ten days. Our calls were related to the research we are doing, and being the opportunist I am, I snuck in a question about their IT spending in 2021 and thoughts about 2022 PC purchases.
All three confirmed that Covid had changed a lot of their PC buying strategies since they have had to buy and manage new laptops purchased for work-at-home staff. A lot of those purchases were driven by how old the work-at-home user’s laptop is, and if it was over five years old, they upgraded them.
They also upgraded some younger laptops based on the quality of that laptop’s camera, but the lion’s share was to replace older ones with lower speed processors that could not handle more complex workloads from home.
Two of them stated that they wanted to be clear that these purchases were upgrades to meet current work from home needs and not corporate IT refreshes as in the past. These two IT decision-makers said that broader refreshes of older PCs and laptops were not in the cards for 2021.
Due to the economic instability and lagging effects of Covid-19 in the broader business world, any aggressive PC refreshes in 2021 are slim. On the other hand, all three suggested that if the economy stabilizes and starts growing by the end of 2021, they could begin to pursue more aggressive PC upgrades to mainstream IT staff the following year.
Currently, ~450 million PCs are still in use worldwide that are four years or older. That is a huge market opportunity for PC vendors to tap into in the future.
I found it interesting that these IT directors I spoke with are already looking at 2022. 2020 was a difficult time for them, and they seem to have a clear idea of their needs in 2021. Like many other IT directors, I suspect that they see a future need to do some aggressive personal computer refreshes in the not too distant future.
That said, a lot could happen with Covid-19 recovery and the world economy in 2021. If Covid-19 vaccines work and the world starts to get back to some sense of normal business rhythms by 2022, the PC makers and our industry need to be sure they are ready for possible robust enterprise demand in 2022.