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After a terrible quarter, China PC market recovery will mainly benefit Apple

A current 16-inch MacBook Pro with M2 Max

New research says that overall desktop, laptop, and tablet sales have declined in China, but Apple saw growth — and will be the main beneficiary of an expected recovery.

Canalys has previously reported that the Apple Watch Ultra drove significant growth in China's wearables market during 2022. Now it's seeing growth for Apple across desktops and particularly notebooks, although in both cases that's from what's currently a small share.

"Canalys expects PC (desktop, notebook and workstation) shipments to stabilize in 2023, with around 48.3 million shipments to maintain a similar shipment level to 2022," says the company. "The commercial sector will bounce by 10% in 2023, thanks to the gradual recovery of the local economy and business activities."

"In the notebook segment," it continued, "Apple's upcoming MacBook (2023) and its efforts to push into enterprises will enhance the MacOS market share with nearly 16% shipment growth expected in 2023."

Apple does not break the top five list of vendors for desktop and notebook shipments, according to Canalys figures which just include the company under "Other." The top seller for 2022 was Lenovo, which declined 15.5% YoY to around 19 million devices.

For tablets, however, Apple tops the analysts' figures for Q4 2022 shipments. Some 2.7 million iPads were sold in mainland China, making a growth YoY of 72.9%.

Stabilizing sales in 2023, recovery in 2024

Despite the expectation that an Apple laptop will do well, the company believes overall notebook sales will decline before the market recovers.

"Canalys expects desktops (including desktop workstations) to grow by 15% in 2023, to reach 17.3 million units," writes the company, "while notebooks (including mobile workstations) will decline by 7% to 30.9 million units."

Curiously, Canalys says only "upcoming MacBook," it doesn't specify MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air. There has already been a 2023 MacBook Pro, so presumably the company is referring to this plus a forthcoming MacBook Air.

The MacBook Air might fit better with the firm's belief that consumer demand will recover after business buying does.

"The mid-term outlook of the PC market will hinge on the return of business and consumer confidence," says Canalys analyst Emma Xu, "as the newly formed government vows to drive consumption and increase disposable income as a priority in 2023."

Source: Canalys
Source: Canalys

However, first Canalys expects to see the "consumer segment...still experience a 9% drop, as recovery is not expected until the fourth quarter."

This new report does not cover smartphone sales, which might be expected to see recovering consumer demand. However, analyst Xu does believe that the interconnected nature of Apple's ecosystem will prove to be an advantage.

"Consumer awareness of the 'connected device ecosystem' will continue to rise," writes Xu. "Vendors focusing on user experience across devices will likely attract the upgraders and younger generation."

Recently Canalys reported on how Apple has arguably captured Generation Z, through this ecosystem.