One of the upsides of the coronavirus was it revealed that when it came to using technology seriously you still needed a proper PC. Remote learning and working has upturned the computer market during the coronavirus pandemic, zapping sales of smartphones in the process.
According to Acer Pan-America president Gregg Prendergast this has strained the whole supply chain. Annual global shipments of PCs, the industry’s collective term for laptops and desktops, topped out at about 300 million in 2008 and recently were sinking toward 250 million. Few expected a resurgence.
But some analysts now expect 2020 will close at about 300 million shipments, up roughly 15 percent from a year ago.
By the end of 2021, installed PCs and tablets will reach 1.77 billion, up from 1.64 billion in 2019, according to research company Canalys. The virus pressed families into expanding from one PC for the house to one for each student, video gamer or homebound worker.
To meet the sudden demand, the world’s handful of big PC vendors added suppliers, sped up shipping and teased better models launching next year. It has not been enough.
Prendergast said Acer has been absorbing the cost to fly laptops directly to its education customers, ditching boats and trains to cut a month off shipping. Yet with assembly lines behind, some customers must wait four months to get shipments.
Components including screens and processors are hard to get even with many factories long past virus shutdowns, analysts said. They added 2021 sales forecasts would be higher if not for the supply issues.
Sam Burd, president at PC maker Dell this month said the industry “renaissance” would soon bring devices with artificial intelligence software to simplify tasks like logging on and switching off cameras.
Dell’s online orders from consumers surged 62 percent in the third quarter compared with last year. Over Black Friday, teams that would normally ring bells at Dell’s Texas headquarters to celebrate big sales gathered like many other people in 2020 - over Zoom from PCs at home.