PCs are back, baby

Overhead view of someone typing on a laptop on a surface.
Jacob Roach/

It’s been a tough year for PCs. Laptop and desktop sales have declined from pandemic highs throughout 2023 and are back to normal in 2019. Even Apple has not completely escaped this decline.

But a new study is predicting a surprise increase in interest in PCs in 2024, leading to another wave of innovation and excitement for the platform. After seven consecutive quarters of decline, the Canalys report forecasts 5% year-on-year growth in the final quarter of 2023 and 8% year-on-year growth overall in 2024. This may not exactly sound bullish, but the return predictions are certainly promising.

A slide showing forecasts in PC sales.

So, what’s the reason for all the optimism? Well, as you might be able to guess, AI is the first reason given for these predictions – or more specifically, “AI PCs.” It’s a bit of a silly name, but the idea is that future PCs will have AI built into every level. This includes NPU (Neural Processing Unit) to accelerate AI workloads on the hardware side – but also in software. Windows has incorporated generic AI into the operating system with Copilot, with all features built into existing software.

ARM-powered PCs are the second reason given for the projected growth. This would be ridiculous in any other year, but it may be true for 2024. Qualcomm is having a huge Snapdragon Elite year. Of course, I don’t expect people to buy new PCs based on ARM, but selling MacBook-like efficiency and battery life could work.

Finally, the report cites the Windows refresh cycle as a reason for the surge in PC sales. Windows 12 (as it’s tentatively titled) is rumored to launch in 2024, just three years after Windows 11 debuts. AI, again, will play a bigger role in Windows 12, and even though you’ll likely eventually be able to update your current PC, the initial batch of devices may come preloaded with the latest features and design, as the rollout of Windows 11 Was in the case of.

Somehow, between these three reasons, it feels like there might be some momentum building behind PCs again. Whether it will reach the heights claimed in this report remains to be determined, but at least we may be out of the worst phase of the recession.

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