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The pandemic boom in PC sales is over

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Shoppers are deciding to buy a Microsoft laptop at Best Buy in Tampa, Florida, November, 2021.
Octavio Jones | Getty Images

PC shipments declined sharply in the first quarter of 2022, according to new industry estimates, suggesting that the pandemic boom in PC sales is over.

Gartner said on Monday that it estimates that PC shipments decreased 7.3% on an annual basis to 77.5 million units, driven primarily by a steep drop in Chromebook shipments. Chromebooks are low-cost laptops popular in schools that run a Google operating system.

The declining shipment numbers during the first quarter are a marked difference from the torrid pace of sales growth the industry was posting during 2021.

PC sales posted their fastest growth in 20 years during the first quarter of 2021 as consumers and businesses bought new laptops and desktops for remote work and learning. In 2021, PC sales grew about 15%, returning to 2012 levels after nearly a decade of slow or no growth.

Other reports issued on Monday also showed a decline. IDC estimated a 5.1% drop to about 80.5 million units shipped. Canalys saw a 3% drop in shipments during the first three months of 2022, although it estimates that total PC revenue still grew. Gartner said the PC market grew 3.3% annually, excluding Chromebooks.

The industry faced challenges related to supplies of parts needed for laptops and desktops stemming from a global chip shortage during the PC sales boom. PC vendors have also stopped shipping new computers into Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.

Companies that produce PCs, or key parts like processors, have hoped that the pandemic created a new higher sales baseline for the industry, but some analysts have warned there are signs growth could drastically slow, since so many people have already purchased new computers.

Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer were the six largest PC companies by units shipped in the first quarter, according to Gartner.

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