Consumer PCs may see demand fall with people back in office

Consumer PCs may see demand fall with people back in office
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8 Nov, 2021

With more people returning to offices and schools reopening, fewer consumers may buy laptops and tablets as they did last year, even as demand in the commercial segment is likely to stay healthy for a while, opine industry experts.

On an average, the commercial or business segment accounts for 45-50% of all PC shipments with the consumer segment accounting for the rest. But the number varies from quarter to quarter. If a large order comes in, the figure can sometimes go as high as 70%, according to data by research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). India shipped 7.9 million PC units in calendar year 2020, IDC figures show.

“The mad rush we saw in 2020 for laptops to support remote work and learning is no longer there. But there is still some pending demand from large contracts that were delayed due to supply concerns. Vendors will try to fulfil them by year-end,” said Jaipal Singh, Research Manager, IDC India.

The demand for notebooks and tablets in India soared after the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns that accelerated remote work and online learning, leading to 4.1 million unit shipments — the highest in five years, in the June quarter of 2020, according to data from market research firm Canalys.

Global PC shipments in the September quarter, meanwhile, fell by 2% due to a slump in demand for PCs, particularly Chromebooks and tablets, in markets such as the US and Japan, according to Canalys. But the India market may not see this pattern play out.

“Demand has not yet slowed down in India. We can anticipate the growth streak to continue in the Asia Pacific region, as the pandemic’s demand is met and also as the PC vendors are prioritizing these specific markets now. We have seen the Indian market grow 33% in PC shipments (excluding tablets) and 19% in tablet shipments in Q3 2021,” said Himani Mukka, Research Analyst, Canalys.

According to Mukka, backlog orders and opening of offices will contribute towards growth and lead PC growth in the business segment for the upcoming quarters in the country.

But the story may pan out differently in the consumer segment. “The specific demand we saw during the pandemic was caused by the lockdown. You may not see the same sort of growth rate, but you still see the same level of volumes, even if the YoY growth may not be so big,” said Ranjit Atwal, Research Director, Gartner.

Atwal believes consumer demand will slow down faster than business. “As people go back to work and children go back to school people won't be buying those PCs for home. However, businesses didn't really buy a lot last year, but as they go back to offices, there will be more demand in offices,” he added.

Gartner had earlier predicted a slowdown in demand for PCs in the second half of CY 2021 due to increase in prices of PCs because of the ongoing global semiconductor shortage and subsequent supply constraints of certain components that had extended lead time for some enterprise mobile PC models to as long as 120 days.

The disruption in supply due to semiconductor shortages has also created a backlog of orders.

Singh pointed out that with people returning to offices there is definitely going to be some pause in buying as key buyers will put new purchases on hold. “However, channel inventory in enterprises is low right now due to semiconductor shortages. Even if demand grows slow, vendors will try to keep a healthy channel inventory going forward, so shipments may not decline drastically,” Singh added.

According to Singh, PC penetration in India is very low and due to growing digital transformation efforts, demand will not drop to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.