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The PC market just had its first year of growth since 2011

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Sales boosted by end of Windows 7 support

Photography by Becca Farsace / The Verge

The worldwide PC market just grew consistently for the first time in eight years, according to market research firms IDC and Gartner. IDC reckons worldwide PC shipments grew by 2.7 percent to 266.7 million devices globally, while Gartner has it pegged at 0.6 percent to 261.2 million devices. 2018 contained the market’s first quarter of growth in six years, but in 2019 this finally lead to a full year of growth, the market’s first since 2011.

Although Gartner and IDC broadly agreed on the direction the PC market is currently heading in, the two firms count devices slightly differently. Both firms include desktops, notebooks, and detachable tablets like the Surface, but Gartner excludes Chromebooks.

Both IDC and Gartner cite Windows 10 upgrades for the turnaround. With Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 today, businesses around the world are being forced to upgrade their legacy devices, leading to “vibrant business demand” for Windows 10, according to Gartner. Windows 10 was installed on 900 million devices as of September last year, according to Microsoft. Data from NetMarketShare suggests there are still millions of PCs that are yet to make the upgrade, however, with Windows 7 still being used on over 30 percent of desktops.

IDC says that the benefits from needing to upgrade to a new operating system are unlikely to last long, however, and while there are new technologies like 5G and dual- and folding-screen devices on the horizon, these are going to take time to arrive. Eventually Microsoft is going to have to stop supporting Windows 8, but the operating system’s market share is so small in comparison to Windows 7 that it’s unlikely to lead to the same amount of upgrades.

It wasn’t all good news for the PC market in 2019. Gartner called Intel’s CPU shortage a “major issue,” and IDC reported that the situation was helped by the adoption of AMD CPUs. Performance also varied between companies. The top three PC manufacturers — Lenovo, HP, and Dell — all saw shipment growth, but fourth and fifth placed Apple and Acer saw PC shipments decline between 2018 and 2019.