Gartner, IDC Think AI PCs Will Rule The PC Market In A Few Years

Gartner says AI PC shipments will double this year and then double again in 2025, when such devices are forecasted to make up 43 percent of total PC shipments. Meanwhile, IDC projects that AI PCs will represent a majority of PC shipments by 2027, thanks in large part to advanced NPUs expected to debut later this year from Intel, AMD and Qualcomm.

Research firms Gartner and IDC said in new forecasts Wednesday that the emerging category of PCs with AI accelerator chips will grow fast and represent a substantial portion, if not a majority, of personal computers that vendors will ship in a few years.

Over the past year, major PC vendors such as Lenovo, HP Inc. and Dell Technologies as well as chip suppliers like Intel, AMD and Qualcomm have coalesced around the idea of AI PCs becoming the next big thing in the personal computer market.

[Related: Lenovo North America President: Windows 11, AI PCs Create ‘Perfect Storm’ For 2024 Refresh]

As CRN reported for AI PC Week in December, these devices are loaded with chips that have specialized capabilities for accelerating generative AI and other kinds of AI workloads. The main benefits put forward by vendors consist of reducing cloud computing costs and improving latency, privacy, security and personalization for such tasks.

While several vendors have pointed to the inclusion of a neural processing unit (NPU) in addition to a CPU and a GPU on a system-on-chip as crucial marker for AI PCs, Nvidia has argued that its GPUs already power more than 100 million AI PCs in the market now.

A leader of one of North America’s largest IT distributors recently told CRN that AI PCs represent a “brave new world” for solution providers, giving channel partners the ability to sell higher priced devices and greatly expand services and support revenue over the next few years.

“I don't see how we're not at a 3x incremental support and services revenue to what we see today in terms of the PC opportunity when you correlate it to AI” within the next few years, said Michael Schwab, co-president of Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H Distributing (pictured above).

Gartner Expects AI PC Shipments To Double In 2024, Then Again In 2025

Gartner said it expects OEMs to ship 54.5 million AI PCs globally this year, more than double the 24 million units that were sent out in 2023. It added that AI PC shipments are expected to more than double again in 2025 with 116 million units.

This means that AI PCs will go from representing 10 percent of total PC shipments in 2023 to 22 percent this year and then 43 percent in 2025, according to the research firm.

Gartner said it expects the appeal of AI PCs will help the PC market continue its return to growth that started in the fourth quarter of 2023 after eight consecutive quarters of decline. This will result in a forecasted 250.4 million PCs shipped in 2024, a 3.5 percent increase from last year that doesn’t completely reverse the market’s 14.8 percent contraction in 2023.

Despite the fast growth estimates for AI PCs in the next two years, Gartner said it doesn’t expect the device category to “drive end-user spending beyond anticipated price increases.”

While there are some AI PC use cases available now, vendors are still on the hunt for essential “killer apps” that will drive adoption of such devices, according to a CRN analysis in December.

Gartner said this will be a sticking point for businesses, who “will demand compelling reasons to invest.” The firm also pointed out that “it will take time for software providers to harness the power of on-device AI and clearly demonstrate its enhanced benefits.”

IDC Points To When AI PCs Will Dominate The Market

While IDC’s AI PC forecast mostly lines up with the figures put forward by Gartner, the former firm’s report looked even further into the future, saying that shipments will grow from nearly 50 million this year to more than 167 million in 2027.

That amounts to an estimated 234 percent growth in AI PC shipments over three years based on IDC’s projections, which would represent a more than tripling of the market segment.

By the end of IDC’s forecast period, AI PCs will represent nearly 60 percent of global PC shipments, according to the research firm.

“In 2024, we'll see AI PC shipments begin to ramp, and over the next few years, we expect the technology to move from niche to a majority,” said Tom Mainelli, group vice president of devices and consumer research at IDC, in a statement.

What will help AI PCs become a dominant force in the industry is the arrival of next-generation systems later this year, according to IDC. These computers will come with NPUs capable of achieving 40 to 60 tera operations per second (TOPS)—a key way to measure AI PC performance—and an “AI-first operating system.”

The research firm said these next-generation AI PCs will be a step above the first wave of devices that started hitting the market a few years ago with NPUs only capable of hitting less than 40 TOPS to enable “specific AI features.” These first-generation devices come with NPUs from Apple, Qualcomm, Intel and AMD.

By contrast, these next-generation systems will come with “persistent and pervasive AI capabilities” in the operating system and in applications, according to IDC. These capabilities will be enabled by upcoming Windows updates that will take advantage of “high-TOPS” NPUs expected to debut from Intel, AMD and Qualcomm in 2024.

While IDC didn’t speak of Apple’s plans for next-generation AI PCs, the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, teased last week that the tech giant plans to introduce generative AI features later this year. It’s unclear if these features will arrive with new Macs that can achieve 40 TOPs or higher.

According to IDC’s forecast, shipments for next-generation AI PCs are expected to be two times higher than systems with less than 40 TOPs by 2027, with a majority of the purchases being made by commercial buyers. As a result, the research firm expects this higher-performance category of AI PC to dominate the overall market by that point.

On the horizon, IDC said, there is another category of AI PCs coming with even greater performance: 60 TOPS or higher. However, the firm said chip suppliers have not made any announcements yet for processors with such advanced capabilities.