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The PC market just had its best Q1 since 2015 and fastest growth in 20 years

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Customers looking at laptop computers at a Best Buy in Los Angeles.

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A lot of people and businesses are still buying PCs, extending a boom that started last year during the Covid-19 pandemic as people needed computers to work or go to school from home.

PC shipments to retailers and other vendors were up 32% in the first quarter of 2021 from the same quarter in 2021, according to a new estimate from Gartner. The research firm said it was the highest PC growth rate it had tracked since 2000, and estimated that 69.9 million laptops and desktops were shipped in the quarter.

PC shipments fell sharply in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic before picking up later in the year, making for an easy comparison. But the boom is real on an absolute basis as well: Total PC shipments were also the highest they’ve been since 2015, when they came in at 71.7 million, according to Gartner.

Gartner’s stats do not include Chromebooks, which are inexpensive laptops running a Google-designed browser operating system and are popular with schools. Including Chromebooks, Gartner estimates that the PC market grew 47% in terms of shipment numbers during the quarter.

Monday’s report suggests that PC sales are historically strong at the moment and that a work-from-home PC sales boom may not end as offices recall more workers and students go back to school. The stats also suggest that PCs will continue to require a lot of new chips and other components during a worldwide semiconductor shortage.

“We believe, at least this year, especially in the first half of this year, PC demand will remain strong. The question is how strong it’s going to be in the second half of this year to next year,” Gartner researcher Mikako Kitagawa told CNBC.

The first quarter is usually a slow time for PC sales, especially compared to the holiday quarter.

Kitagawa said that this quarter’s results may have been even stronger if not for a global chip shortage and other supply chain issues which are forcing some PC vendors to say they will ship computers months later than usual.

“The supply chain was completely disrupted one year ago, and the supply chain is disrupted right now because of a global semiconductor shortage,” Kitagawa said.

According to the report, the top five PC makers are Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Acer, and Asus.

Other sales estimates also suggest a hot PC market during the period: Canalys estimates that the PC market grew by 55% in the quarter, and IDC estimates 55% growth as well.

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