The global desktop and mobile workstation market reported a slight recovery as it exited 2023, with unit shipments growing 6,1% year over year in the fourth quarter (4Q23).

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Workstation Tracker, the 1,85-million units shipped in 4Q23 reversed five consecutive quarters of declining annual shipment growth.

For much of 2023, the workstation market was constrained by budget curtailments and inventory issues. The Covid-19 pandemic initially helped to drive demand but later contributed to excess shipments, culminating in record volume of over 7,6-million in 2022.

The first half of 2023 thus saw a sharp contraction from weak demand and high channel inventory.

Trends began to stabilise in the second half of the year as mainstream mobile workstation and entry fixed workstation demand improved, but nonetheless 2023 shipments shrank 8,8% year over year, marking the second worst percentage drop since IDC began tracking the market in 2008.

“2023 was undoubtedly tough in many respects, but we ended the year with some silver linings and expectations of better things going forward,” says Jay Chou, research manager for IDC’s Worldwide Client Devices Trackers. “For one, the market is still bigger than where things stood before the pandemic and is more resilient than the overall PC market.

“Beyond the short term, we expect several drivers to take place beginning in the latter half of 2024. With Windows 10 support expiring in late 2025, we expect enterprises to speed up the migration toward Windows 11, which should last through next year.

“We also expect new CPU and GPU launches to occur around this timeframe.

“Finally, current exploration around AI for work should translate into an expansion of use cases, including model development, across numerous industries.”

Dell remained firmly in the top position. Although Dell saw its shipment volume shrank slightly in 4Q23 versus a year ago, its steady performance enabled it to outperform the market for all of 2023.

At number two, HP Inc. underperformed against the market for most of 2023, but its 4Q23 volume growth was helped by channel replenishment of its entry systems.

Third place Lenovo grew over 11% in 4Q23 but was still somewhat hampered by continued softness in the Chinese market.

IDC expects workstation shipments to grow 5,2% in 2024 as the market replenishes stock and prepares for refresh projects. The momentum will build through 2025 when growth should top 7,9%.

Growth will moderate after the dash toward Windows 11 migration by late 2025, but the market will still see a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2% for the 2022–2028 forecast period.