PC shipments fell sharply last quarter, and Apple was hit hard

The PC market had a rough first quarter, with both IDC and Canalys reporting that global shipments of desktops and laptops fell by about 30 percent in the first quarter of 2023 and 29 percent in the same quarter of 2022. 56.9 million units, while Canalys fell 32.6 percent to 54 million units.

While all five major manufacturers suffered double-digit declines, Apple appears to have been hit hardest. IDC said its shipments fell 40.5 percent, while Canalys reported a 45.5 percent drop. Both research firms report that the Mac maker’s market share has declined between one and two percentage points.

Chart from Canalys showing trends since 2017.
Image: Canals

The decline in Mac shipments isn’t a surprise. Apple posted a 29 percent drop in revenue during its last earnings release (for the three months ending December 31, 2022), and had previously warned that sales of its computers would “decline significantly.” But the reports put Apple’s decline in the context of an entire industry that has been feeling the pinch for several quarters now. Canalys notes that Q1 2023 marks the fourth quarter of double-digit annual declines for PC makers in general.

There are interrelated reasons for the decline. One result is an explosion in demand over the past two years as everyone stocks up on computer hardware to allow employees and students to study and work from home. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as IDC notes that shipments for the quarter were “significantly lower” than pre-pandemic levels. Broader economic uncertainty also seems to be playing a role, with interest rate hikes in the US and Europe another reason for subdued demand, says Canalys’ Ishan Dutt.

Both IDC and Canalys predict that demand will pick up in 2023 and the second half of 2024. “By 2024, an aging installed base will begin to come in for renewal,” said IDC’s Lin Huang. “If the economy picks up by then, we expect significant market upside as businesses switch to Windows 11 as schools look to replace aging Chromebooks, as consumers upgrade.” However, Huang also warns that “if the slowdown in major markets drags on into next year, the recovery will be a sluggish one.”

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