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Executive Insight: The Computer Is Personal Again

As consumers reinvest in PCs we are seeing the industry do the same, with impressive results

Following a momentous week (and definitely a momentous first half) in the U.S. consumer PC market, one phrase continues to bounce around my brain – “The Computer is Personal Again”. For those who don’t remember this phrase, it was a tagline from HP around 2005/2006 just as the industry was beginning to see the great migration from desktop computing to mobile computing and it proved to be one of the greatest slogans and product campaigns of all time. In the time since then, the idea that the computer is personal to each of us has been eclipsed by the remarkable move to the smartphone; but, I believe we have all rediscovered this concept in the last six months and renewed our personal relationship with our PC.

Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for technology & mobile for the NPD Group

I am reminded of this after a week full of virtual product announcements that included the launch of Intel’s Tiger Lake 11th Gen processors and the rebranding of its Project Athena to a more friendly “Evo” branding, as well as the introduction of Nvidia’s Ampere next generation graphics cards and many products unveiled in conjunction with these. The real theme running through all of this news is the rebirth in value, interest, and demand for the computer among consumers. As consumers reinvest in PCs we are seeing the industry do the same, with impressive results.

After years of lackluster sales and indifferent products we can confidently say that now “The Computer is Personal Again”. In response to a global pandemic that has restricted our ability to gather in person for work and education, among other things, many of us have turned to technology to keep us connected. According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service data, in the U.S. Total PC sales are up 42% over the last six months (March-Aug.) and notebooks have jumped 46%, including six straight months of over 40% increases for Windows notebooks and over 60% increases in Chromebooks. Consumers are spending more on notebooks than ever before with overall Chrome ASPs breaching $300 and Windows notebooks regularly exceeding $575.

And purchase intent doesn’t appear to be waning. In fact, over the last three months a consistent 15% of consumers have reported that they intend to buy a notebook in the next month, with more than half of all buyers noting they were buying a “new” additional notebook for their home as opposed to replacing an existing one. Interestingly, the intended use for that new PC has remained not on specific tasks, but on a broad range of activities such as education, entertainment, and productivity that make the computer unique to the individual*.

Taking everything into consideration, NPD expects PC sales growth to continue with an increase of 49% in Q4 and another 20% in Q1 2021*. The demands of modern life, whether they are Pandemic-driven or a result of post-Pandemic requirements, are going to build on the recognition by consumers of the need for, and personal nature of the PC. This is the time for the PC ecosystem to reinforce that “The PC is Personal Again” with product branding, features and pricing, as well as for PC manufacturers to deliver on the promise that HP identified so long ago.

*The NPD Group/Future of Tech Report

Stephen Baker, VP and industry advisor for technology & mobile for the NPD Group, has been tracking and analyzing the technology industry for more for 30 years and offers expert insight and commentary to clients and the media about consumer technology sales and trends across the U.S. and regionally. His perspectives cover retail and e-commerce, computer hardware and peripherals, holiday and yearly sales results, and analysis of new products and their impact on the consumer technology market.

See also: Q&A With NPD Group’s Stephen Baker