PC Market Is On The Cusp Of A Big Rebound Thanks To AI And Santa Claus

Santa Claus typing on a laptop during a snowfall.
After a surge in desktop and laptop shipments during the pandemic when working from home became the norm, it's been a bit of a tough landscape for the PC industry as things settled down. However, a rebound is in sight. According to the fortune tellers at Canalys, "worldwide PC shipments are on the verge of a recovery" after seeing shipments decline for seven quarters in a row.

To put some numbers to the forecast, the market analyst firm expects to see PC shipments close out 2023 with 5% growth in the fourth quarter. And then looking ahead, it anticipates shipments in 2024 to climb 8% year-over-year, which would work out to 267 million units for the full year.

According to Canalys, it's going to be a strong holiday season bolstered in part by a Windows refresh, rising demand for AI-capable hardware, and surging demand for Arm-based devices. In other words, Santa Claus and his merry band of elves will be busy keeping up with demand for PC products during the holidays, to close out 2023 on a strong note (and beyond). It is the gift-giving season, after all, as well as an extended season of sales.

Canalys slide with a graph on its forecasted PC shipment growth.

"The global PC market is on a recovery path and set to return to 2019 shipment levels by next year," said Canalys Analyst Ben Yeh. "The impact of AI on the PC industry will be profound, with leading players across OEMs, processor manufacturers, and operating system providers focused on delivering new AI-capable models in 2024. These initiatives will bolster refresh demand, particularly in the commercial sector. The total shipment share of AI-capable PCs is expected to be about 19% in 2024."

In addition to Windows PCs, Canalys is taking into account Mac products powered by Apple's custom M-series silicon. However, AI is expected to be the real driver as time goes on. According to Yeh, there will be a fast ramp up in the development and adoption of PCs capable of AI workloads as more use cases present themselves.

It will be interesting to see what effect Arm-based shipments have on the landscape as a whole. Canalys expects a "proliferation of Arm-based PCs" next year, driven by Qualcomm's recently-introduced X Elite silicon. The X Elite is built on a 4-nanometer process and features an Oryon CPU with 12 high-performance cores clocked at 3.8GHz, two of which can ramp to 4.3GHz as needed. It also offers 136GB/s of memory bandwidth and wields 42MB of total cache.

According to Qualcomm, its fancy Arm-based chip beats Apple's M2 Max and Intel's Core i9-13980HX in single-threaded performance. Qualcomm also claims that the X Elite matches the M2 Max's peak multi-threaded performance at a 30% lower power consumption, and offers the same Core i9-13980HX peak multi-threaded performance at a 70% lower power draw. We shall see.

"While uptake is initially likely to be restrained, particularly in commercial settings, the ability to deliver improvements in power efficiency and battery life will be a boon to offerings partners can bring to customers," Ishan Dutt, Canalys Principal Analyst. said of Qualcomm's X Elite chip.

We'll have to wait and see if Canalys is spot on with its shipment forecast, but given the growing popularity of AI and all the new products coming out, it certainly looks promising.
Tags:  PC shipments, AI