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In brief: Last year was not a good one for the PC market, with one analyst firm calling it the industry's worst ever twelve months. However, the final quarter of 2023 offered reasons to be optimistic going forward. That's a good reason for PC companies to celebrate, but the less welcome news for consumers is that SSD prices are expected to increase a massive 50% this year as NAND costs rise.
Starting with analyst firm Gartner, it writes that 2023 was the worst year in history for the PC industry, with shipments down 14.8% year-over-year. Worldwide PC shipments were at 241.8 million units in 2023, dropping from 284 million units in 2022.
While that's devastating for the industry, there was a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter of 2023. Global shipments increased 0.3% compared to a year earlier, ending a sequence of declining quarterly shipments stretching back two years.
When it comes to individual companies, Lenovo led the market in 2023 with a near 25% share. It was followed by HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer. HP had the best showing last year, with shipments falling 'just' 4.5%. Dell had the worst 12 months, down 19.5%.
Looking at regional markets, Gartner writes that the US PC market recorded its first year-over-year growth in Q4 since the second quarter of 2021, with a 1.8% increase in the fourth quarter of 2023 - a decline in desktops offset laptop growth. HP kept its top spot in the US, followed by Dell and Apple.
Moving onto the other big analyst firm, IDC, it has global PC shipments down 13.9% last year. That's similar to Gartner's estimates, but IDC believes the fourth quarter of 2023 saw shipments decline, by 2.7%.
Both companies agree that the PC market reached a nadir in 2023 following its pandemic-era boom, but it is finally showing signs of recovery. "Inventory was normalized in the fourth quarter of 2023, which had been an issue plaguing the industry for two years. This subtle growth suggests that demand and supply are finally balanced. However, this situation will likely change due to the anticipated component price hike 2024, as well as geopolitical and economic uncertainties," said Mikako Kitagawa, Director Analyst at Gartner. "Gartner projects that the PC market will return to annual growth in 2024."
The component price hike that Kitagawa mentions likely refers to SSDs. We heard in December that NAND flash prices were expected to increase by at least 50% with companies slowing down production of NAND and DRAM chips to help stabilize prices and clear out inventory.