As the world began dealing with a massive remote workforce coupled with millions of kids taking classes online at home during the COVID-19 lockdowns, demand for PCs soared in Q1 2020 but the health crisis caused severe delays in production and logistical issues, leading to worldwide PC shipments falling over 8 per cent (Year-on-Year) in the first quarter this year - the largest decline since Q1 2016.
In the Q1 (January-March) quarter, vendors shipped 53.7 million desktops, notebooks and workstations, according to market research firm Canalys. Lenovo led the market with 12.8 million units shipped, HP came second with 11.7 million units, followed by Dell at 10.5 million units. Apple, however, was hit the hardest in Q1, as its shipments fell over 20 per cent to 3.2 million units.
"The PC industry has been boosted by the global COVID-19 lockdown, with products flying off the shelves throughout Q1," said Rushabh Joshi, Research Director at Canalys. "But PC market started 2020 with a constrained supply of Intel processors, caused by a botched transition to 10nm nodes," he added.
This was exacerbated by factory shutdown in China for a larger part in Q1. "The slowdown in supply met with accelerated demand, as businesses were suddenly forced to equip a newly remote workforce, placing urgent orders for tens of thousands of PCS, said Doshi. Children too needed their own PCs as schools were closed and classrooms went online.
In India, Chromebooks and business laptops started disappearing from the shelves even before the 21-day lockdown was announced from March 24 midnight, as millions of Indians across the spectrum began working from home as corona-positive cases began emerging from various offices from early March. A Lenovo spokesperson said that there has been an uptick in demand for laptops and other accessories in the social distancing times.
"Inevitably, given the rise in the need for remote and flexible working from businesses around the world, we have seen an increase in demand for laptops and supporting accessories," said the spokesperson. Industry insiders informed that HP Inc has also seen a huge demand and its work-from-home products were completely sold out in the country.
However, the PC, print and laptop majors are now facing the supply issue as retail outlets are shut, online platforms selling essential items like groceries while demand is still coming from all the quarters. According to Ishan Dutt, in Q2, few businesses will be spending on technology for their offices, while many homes will have been freshly equipped.
"A global recession has begun -- businesses will go bankrupt, will millions newly unemployed. Even governments and large corporations will have to prioritize spending elsewhere," Dutt said in a statement. With factories now up and running in China, "PC vendors will face a challenge to manage the supply chain and production correctly over the next three to six months", he added. In Q1 2016, the global PC shipments dropped 12 per cent which was its biggest decline.