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PC sales crash as virus hits

COVID-19 is now an integral element of forecasting of computer sales, as the impact of coronavirus begins to be felt in the supply chain

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Overall shipments of personal computing devices (PCD) will decline 9% in 2020, reaching 374.2-million by the end of this year, as a result of the impact of coronavirus, or COVID-19, on manufacturing, logistics and sales.

According to new projections from the Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker,  International Data Corporation (IDC) has lowered its forecast for PCDs, inclusive of desktops, notebooks, workstations, and tablets. 

The long-term forecast still remains slightly positive, with global shipments forecast to grow to 377.2-million in 2024, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.2%. However, this is based on an IDC assumption that the spread of the virus will recede in 2020. Since the figure represents only marginal growth, the ongoing impact of the virus could quickly reduce long-term forecasts into negative expectations. IDC did not provide alternative scenarios should this occur.

The decline in 2020 is attributed to two significant factors; the Windows 7 to Windows 10 transition creates tougher year-over-year growth comparisons from here on out and, more recently, the spread of COVID-19 is hampering supply and leading to reduced demand. As a result, IDC forecasts a decline of 8.2% in shipments during the first quarter of 2020 (1Q20), followed by a decline of 12.7% in 2Q20 as the existing inventory of components and finished goods from the first quarter will have been depleted by the second quarter. In the second half of the year, growth rates are expected to improve, though the market will remain in decline.

“We have already forgone nearly a month of production given the two-week extension to the Lunar New Year break and we expect the road to recovery for China’s supply chain to be long with a slow trickle of labour back to factories in impacted provinces until May when the weather improves,” said Linn Huang, research vice president, Devices & Displays. “Many critical components such as panels, touch sensors, and printed circuit boards come out of these impacted regions, which will cause a supply crunch heading into Q2.”

“There’s no doubt that 2020 will remain challenged as manufacturing levels are at an all-time low and even the products that are ready to ship face issues with logistics,” added Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “Lost wages associated with factory shutdowns and the overall reduction in quality of life will further the decline in the second half of the year as demand will be negatively impacted.”

Assuming the spread of the virus subsides in 2020, IDC anticipates minor growth in 2021 as the market returns to normal with growth stemming from modern form factors such as thin and light notebooks, detachable tablets, and convertible laptops. Many commercial organizations are expected to refresh their devices and move towards these modern form factors in an effort to attract and retain a younger workforce. Meanwhile, consumer demand in gaming, as well as the rise in cellular-enabled PCs and tablets, will also help provide a marginal uplift.

Worldwide Topline Personal Computing Device Forecast Changes, Year-Over-Year Growth %, 2020-2021 (Annual)

Product Category Forecast Version 2020
Shipments (M)
2020 Year-Over-
Year Growth
2021
Shipments (M)
2021 Year-Over-
Year Growth
2021 Year-Over-
Year Growth
Total Traditional PCs 4Q19 – Feb. 2020 248.0 -7.1% 251.2 1.3% 1.3%

3Q19 – Nov. 2019 252.4 -4.6% 248.3 -1.6% -1.6%
Total Tablets 4Q19 – Feb. 2020 126.2 -12.4% 125.4 -0.6% -0.6%

3Q19 – Nov. 2019 127.8 -10.8% 125.2 -2.0% -2.0%
Total Personal Computing Devices 4Q19 – Feb. 2020 374.2 -9.0% 376.6 0.6% 0.6%

3Q19 – Nov. 2019 380.2 -6.8% 373.5 -1.8% -1.8%

Worldwide Topline Personal Computing Device Forecast Changes, Year-Over-Year Growth %, 2020 (Quarterly)

Product Category Forecast Version 1Q20 2Q20 3Q20 4Q20
Total Traditional PCs 4Q19 – Feb. 2020 -6.4% -10.3% -6.4% -5.6%

3Q19 – Nov. 2019 -2.0% -6.8% -5.7% -3.5%
Total Tablets 4Q19 – Feb. 2020 -11.8% -17.5% -15.0% -6.6%

3Q19 – Nov. 2019 -8.1% -10.7% -16.3% -7.8%

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, February 19, 2020

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