PC sales are down but can everyone please chill out

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We've already had news of CPU, graphics cards and PC monitor sales being hit. So, it's no surprise that the latest data from analysts shows PC sales themselves are dipping. But if you look at the broader context, there's absolutely no reason to panic. Actually, taken in the round, PC sales have held up remarkably well.

As reported by the Verge, both IDC and Canalys have PC sales down by around 30% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2022. Specifically, IDC puts the figure at 29% with a total of 56.9 million shipments while Canalys puts it at 32.6% and 54 million units. The figures are for PCs in general, gaming PCs in particular aren't separated out.

Either way, then, it's a hefty drop compared to last year and the fourth consecutive quarter of fall in PC shipments. Apple, incidentally, was the hardest hit of the big personal computer brands, suffering a 40% drop. Ouch.

Of course, the usual narrative around these stories is that falls were bound to happen after a huge boom in sales during the pandemic. However, IDC notes that sales are lower now than before the pandemic implying that something beyond a mere return to normal is happening. Canalys reckons that higher interest rates are reducing demand.

Of course, a simpler explanation is that people bought a tonne of PCs during the whole work-and-game-from-home period during the pandemic, they don't already need to replace all those PCs, so a drop off was inevitable regardless of any economic downturn.

PC sales may be down a bit of late, but they spiked by much more during the pandemic. (Image credit: Canalys)
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Likewise, if you go back to the first quarter of 2019, Canalys has PC shipments at just under 60 million units. So, it's not as if the market has imploded. If anything, given that shipments ticked along at 80 to 90 million a quarter for about a year and a half during the pandemic, which is miles above the pre-pandemic trend, it's remarkable how little they've dropped.

Indeed, both Canalys and IDC are predicting an upturn in PC sales in the second half of this year and into 2024. If that happens, it looks like overall sales over the last few year will end up being above trend taken in the round.

In other words, everyone chill. The PC industry isn't imploding. It enjoyed an exceptional boom during the pandemic and, so far at least, this is a pretty mild adjustment in response.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.