The Covid-19 pandemic this year drove up desktop and laptop computer sales globally. Hardware industry executives and analysts have reported that manufacturers are yet to fulfill a number of outstanding orders.
The pandemic saw millions of people work from home while students took up online learning to catch up with their studies. This increased the demand for bigger devices which had become less popular over the last few years. In the last decade, more people took up android and iPhone use ditching computers and laptops.
“The whole supply chain has been strained like never before,” said Gregg Prendergast, Pan-America president at hardware maker Acer Inc.
Annual global PCs (umbrella term for Laptops, desktops computers etc) had shrank toward 250 million from a 300 million figure in 2008. Many people expected the downward trend to continue. Some manufacturers sold their brands while Toshiba wrapped up the PC business.
However, 2020 has necessitated the use of PCs, bringing back the demand. Analysts now project that 2020 will close with a 15 percent increase in shipments, at about 300 million. Research company Canalys projects that by the end of 2021, installed PCs and tablets shipments are likely to hit 1.77 billion, up from 1.64 billion in 2019.
The pandemic saw most households add more devices, up from one shared PC in the recent past. Now, parents had to work, children had to study and play as the internet became the preferred medium for daily life. PC manufacturers adjusted to the sudden demand by increasing their supplier base, speeding up shipping and even teasing new models for 2021.
According to Prendergast, some companies like Acer have ditched trains and ships and absorbed flying costs, opting to speed up laptop delivery to their education customers by at least one month. However, due to the bulk of orders, the end user waits for at least 4 months.
Despite the easing of the pandemic restrictions, components such as screens and processors are still hard to get, analysts said. They added that if not for the supply issues, the 2021 sales forecast would be even higher.
Ishan Dutt, a Canalys analyst, says the demand was so high during the pandemic, citing an example where a customer visited a vendor asking for any device with a keyboard. That kind of demand has eased over the past few months, but a lot of users are also looking to upgrade, meaning there is still a lot of pressure on the industry. Manufacturers are now focusing on new demands in the market. The next PCs are set to feature better cameras and microphones for video conferencing.
According to Ryan Reith, vice president at analyst firm IDC, government stimulus money given to schools and businesses may add to the crunch until 2022.