Even in the current pandemic, there are a few companies that have seen some positive trends amid the Great Cessation. After shelter-in-place orders began going out, home electronics sales started to surge, reflecting an increased need for office equipment, including PCs.
The sales boost, however, already shows signs of having peaked, according to The Information, and DigiTimes reports that the PC market is expected to sag by Q3 2020, even though that’s typically the best quarter for the industry. The electronics news is straightforward: Electronics sales have dipped after March 30, potentially indicating that demand is falling off as consumers gear up to work from home.
DigiTimes reports that “some market observers are concerned that the PC market may start seeing a slowdown in May, followed by a sharp fall in the third quarter.” That aligns with reports from Gartner earlier this month. The most recent release from Gartner suggests 51.6M PCs were shipped in Q1 2020, down 12.3 percent from the year before. Some of that downturn is going to be from sales decreases in Asia-Pacific, since the lockdown initially only impacted China, though the drop in US sales would be apparent from the last weeks of March.
IDC’s numbers were similar, with a 9.8 percent slump year-on-year. That company, however, thinks at least some of the outcomes could be positive. “IDC believes there will be longstanding positive consequences once the dust settles,” said Linn Huang, IDC’s research vice president of devices and displays. “Businesses that once primarily kept their users on campus will have to invest in remote infrastructure, at the very least, for continuity purposes.”
Observing that the coronavirus will change everything has already become cliché in a matter of weeks, so I’ll spare you the discussion, but Gartner expects that over 40 percent of employees will work remotely in the common months due to various reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. What strikes me about all of this is how difficult the art of prediction has suddenly become. Six months from now, will the economy have recovered, or will we be mired in a deep recession? Will Covid-19 cases surge again in the fall or winter? We don’t know. What will PC demand look like in Q3 2020? Normally, I’d be willing to at least take a guess. Right now, I have no idea because I don’t know what kind of shape the planet will be in.
Both IDC and Gartner expect a semiconductor recovery as telecommuting becomes more popular. Exactly how popular may depend on how long we have to maintain social distancing rules.
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