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Windows 7 standard support ends today, and it seems this deadline really helped drive demand for PCs in the fourth quarter of last year.

Worldwide unit shipments of PCs grew by a surprisingly strong 4.8% in Q4:19, according to new figures from IDC. That not only beat the market watcher’s earlier forecast, it also marked the highest quarterly shipment volume of PCs since the fourth quarter of 2015.

For the full year 2019, PC unit shipments were 2.7% higher than those of the previous year, IDC adds. That marks the first full year of PC shipment growth since 2011, when shipments rose by a smaller 1.7%.

Commercial shipments were almost entirely driven by the need to upgrade older Win7 PCs to Windows 10, IDC says. In many cases, that meant a shift to not only the new OS, but also new PC hardware. Hence the bounce in shipments.

It’s worth noting that market watcher Gartner says PC unit shipments in Q4 rose by only 2.3%. That’s because the two market watchers define the PC market differently.

Still, they both agree the market was up. And for PC sellers, that’s a big deal.

More to come?

Regarding the near-term outlook, the two market watchers disagree.

Gartner sees smooth sailing ahead. “We expect this growth to continue through this year,” says Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa, pointing to the fact that Windows 7 PCs still need upgrading in several regions, including China and Asia/Pacific.

IDC sees it differently. “The next 12 to 18 months will be challenging for traditional PCs,” says IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani. “The majority of Windows 10 upgrades will be in the rearview mirror, and lingering concerns about component shortages and trade negotiations will get ironed out.”

Vendor consolidation

During last year’s fourth quarter, the top 3 PC vendors — Dell, HP and Lenovo – further consolidated their hold on the market. According to IDC, they now collectively control 65% of the market, up from 63% in 2018. Two percent may not sound like much, but we’re talking 2% of a huge market, one in which annual PC shipments total about 72 million units.

Gartner and IDC both agree that in Q4:19, the top PC vendors by units shipped were, in order, Lenovo, HP, Dell and Apple. As for ASUS and Acer, Gartner ranks them numbers 5 and 6 worldwide. IDC ranks Acer at number 5 worldwide, but categorizes ASUS only among “others.”

In the United States alone, the order in Q4 was slightly different, according to Gartner: HP was no. 1 with a 31% share, followed by Dell (27%), Lenovo (15%), Apple (14%) and Microsoft (5%).

Another pleasant surprise was desktop PCs. In the U.S., desktops enjoyed double-digit growth during 2019 for the first time since 2014, Gartner says. It adds that Lenovo's 2019 desktop shipments in the U.S. rose over the previous year by a whopping 30%.

The PC is obsolete? Not by a long shot.

 

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