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Gartner and IDC say worldwide PC shipments grew by a surprising amount in first quarter of 2021.

Despite a global shortage of semiconductor chips, the PC industry had a strong first quarter, according to research firm Gartner. They estimate that shipments of laptops and desktops rose 32 percent compared to Q1 2020. IDC agreed – in fact, they claim there was a 55 percent growth year-over-year.

This growth seems counter-intuitive, say both firms. Gartner says that the growth is the fastest it’s seen since it started tracking the market in 2000. IDC says that the drop in shipments from Q4 to Q1 is the smallest it’s seen since 2012. In short, both researchers see anomalous aspects of this PC market growth. Especially since it is riding on an already strong performance from 2020.

The numbers themselves are impressive. Gartner estimates that just under 70 million PCs were shipped, while IDC estimates around 84 million.

Gartner: A “unique” combination of factors drove the growth

This growth should be viewed in the context of two unique factors: comparisons against a pandemic-constrained market and the current global semiconductor shortage,” said Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner.

“Without the shipment chaos in early 2020, this quarter’s growth may have been lower. However, semiconductor shortages are now adversely affecting the supply chain once again, with shipment lead times for some PCs extending to as long as four months.

“While this may lead to lower shipment numbers, it is still reasonable to conclude that PC demand could remain strong even after stay-home restrictions ease. Moving forward, vendors and suppliers will be closely balancing the need to meet underlying demand without creating excess inventory.”

IDC: Unfulfilled demand arising from the pandemic fueled the boom

“Unfulfilled demand from the past year has carried forward into the first quarter and additional demand brought on by the pandemic has also continued to drive volume,” said Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC’s Mobile Device Trackers.

“However, the market continues to struggle with setbacks including component shortages and logistics issues, each of which has contributed to an increase in average selling prices.”

Growth in gaming drove the strong PC market as well as increases in average selling prices (ASPs), says IDC. The need for higher performance notebooks in the enterprise also drove growth. There was also an increase in demand for touchscreens within the education segment, they said.