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China to see robust growth in AI PC shipments

By Fan Feifei| China Daily| Updated:  June 13, 2024 L M S

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Employees run tests on personal computers at Lenovo's LCFC factory in Hefei, Anhui province, in July. [FENG YONGBIN/CHINA DAILY]

Shipments of artificial intelligence-powered personal computers are expected to grow rapidly in China over the next few years, driven mainly by the rapid evolution of large language models and quick deployment of generative AI technology in hardware devices, said industry experts.

AI PCs, which refer to computers that integrate AI into their processors and are capable of independently running LLMs and applications, mark a significant turning point in the PC industry and will trigger a new product replacement cycle, they added.

According to a report released by market research company International Data Corp, China's PC market will likely maintain steady growth momentum in the next five years, with AI-powered PCs estimated to take up 85 percent of the overall PC market share in China in 2027.

Data from IDC show that global shipments of AI PCs will grow from nearly 50 million units this year to more than 167 million in 2027, while AI PCs will account for nearly 60 percent of all PC shipments worldwide by the end of 2027.

The consultancy believes that AI PC shipments have started to ramp up in 2024, and over the next few years, it expects the technology to move from niche to a majority.

Many of these AI PCs will be sold to commercial buyers, but consumers will have much to look forward to in the coming AI PC age, including potential improvements in PC gaming and digital content creation, IDC added.

Wang Jiping, vice-president of IDC China, said AI PCs will bring about disruptive changes to the PC industry, and major Chinese PC manufacturers have released AI-related terminal products.

Wang added that the next two or three years will be key in bolstering the application of AI technology into electronic devices.

According to industry research firm Canalys, China's PC market will rebound to 3 percent growth in 2024 and 10 percent growth in 2025, primarily fueled by refreshed demand from the commercial sector. The shipment of PCs in the Chinese market declined by 9 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2023, with 11.3 million PC units shipped.

Emma Xu, an analyst from Canalys, said 2024 is expected to bring modest relief to a struggling PC market in China, as the PC sector is set to witness significant opportunities from this commercial push, especially as it coincides with the upcoming device refreshment cycle and the emergence of AI-capable PCs.

Canalys estimates that 48 million AI PCs will be shipped worldwide in 2024, which represents 18 percent of total PC shipments. But this is just the start of a major market transition, with AI-capable PC shipments projected to surpass 100 million in 2025, forming 40 percent of all PC shipments.

The forecast underscores the massive potential and wide-ranging impact AI-capable PCs will have on the industry over the next five years and beyond. PC vendors that can deliver innovative, differentiated AI-accelerated experiences stand to gain as this disruptive new category goes mainstream, experts said.

"PCs with dedicated on-device AI capabilities will enable new and improved user experiences, driving productivity gains and personalizing devices at scale while offering better power efficiency, stronger security and reduced costs associated with running AI workloads," said Ishan Dutt, principal analyst at Canalys.

This emerging PC category opens new frontiers for both software developers and hardware vendors to innovate and deliver compelling use cases to customers across consumer, commercial and education scenarios, Dutt added.

Xiang Ligang, director-general of telecom industry association Information Consumption Alliance, said, "We are currently in a transition stage in the application of generative AI." The IT industry will feel the impact of AI more than any other industry, as every company races to introduce AI-enhanced products or services and to assist their customers with AI implementation, he added.