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Opinion
Tae Kim

Peak PC? Pandemic Sales Boom Is Set to Expire

Covid living sent home computers flying off the shelves, but this is not a new normal. Demand is set to hit a wall.

Before last year, PCs were among the sleepiest markets in technology. Is it really different this time?

Before last year, PCs were among the sleepiest markets in technology. Is it really different this time?

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

PC sales are booming, and despite the industry’s cyclical past, Wall Street and the major PC makers believe strong computer demand will last for a long time to come. "We expect the return to office trend will continue to benefit Dell in the coming quarters,” read one representative report from Cowen. But there’s reason to be skeptical about these sunny projections. Based on past experience, the present boom times for personal computers could be more limited than people think.

For sure, the industry’s recent growth numbers have been extraordinary. During the pandemic, PC demand soared as the public built out their work-from-home offices, bought laptops to enable online learning and acquired hardware for in-home digital entertainment. According to research firm IDC, global PC shipments grew by 55% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the prior year and rose by 26% in the fourth quarter of 2020.