How many? 28 million fewer PCs and tablets to find a home in 2020

Factory closures, surge in remote working and weakened economy all fed into forecasting formula

Seven is lucky for some, but maybe not PC and tab makers in 2020 if research house Canalys has got its forecasts right: manufacturers will ship 367.8 million of those boxes, 27.8 million fewer than the prior 12 months, and down - you guessed it - 7 per cent.

Those are pretty stark figures, but hardly surprising. Demand for notebooks went through the roof as countries forced their citizens into lockdown, but the supply chain was bashed by efforts to counter the virus.

With millions working and educating their offspring from home, computers and tablets quickly became a hot commodity.

"From a category perspective, notebooks have been at the centre of a demand surge that has left vendors and channel partners scrambling,” said Ishan Dutt, analyst at Canalys.

To contain the virus, China (and many other manufacturing centres) issued stay-at-home orders, which dramatically limited manufacturing capacity. Meanwhile, border lockdowns presented challenges for those shipping components internationally.

The demand was there. It simply wasn't being met. This echoes comments in recent weeks by Lenovo, HP and Dell.

Tom Sweet, CFO at Dell, said on a conference call last week: "We saw extended lead times, particularly for mobile solutions, but these are now turning back to more normal levels."

Dutt predicts the business demand for laptops will persist in the coming months. Evidence suggests that most employees who are pushed into remote working actually enjoy it, and would rather it continued beyond the pandemic — either full-time, or for a part of the working week.

Schools will continue to prop up demand for laptops further, with classes returning only partially full — the rest relying on remote learning to continue their education.

This will result in a relatively flat PC market in 2021. Growth is expected to return in 2022, with a predicted uptick of 2 per cent.

"COVID-19 has given the PC industry a boost. Despite the progress that smartphones and tablets have made in recent years, the need for a high-performance mobile computing device has never been more pronounced. As countries emerge from this crisis and the ensuing economic slump, spending on technology solutions will be a key recovery driver," said Rushabh Doshi, research director at Canalys.

It's not all rosy though. With staffers now working from their couches and kitchens, Canalys expects desktop sales to suffer.

So too will tablets, which are primarily bought by consumers. With a deep recession forecast, paired with crushing unemployment figures, Canalys expects holiday demand to suffer. Because if you can't afford rent, you definitely can't afford a new iPad. ®

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