back to article Pandemic proves just the tonic for PC sales as shipments shoot upwards

Global PC shipments climbed back into recovery mode for the second quarter thanks to increased demand from the surge of home working. PC makers shipped 2.8 per cent more devices in the second quarter of this year to a total of 64.8m units, according to researchers at Gartner. Analysts at IDC were more bullish, putting the …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

    And now that this pandemic spike is over, the PC industry can return to lamenting the slow death of the PC.

    You know your industry is in trouble when it takes a global pandemic to temporarily reverse the trend.

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

      It's not in trouble.

      IT devices have just reached a point where there is no point upgrading frequently for most people.

      In 2000 if you had a 5 year old computer then it'd have been a 75mhz Pentium I. In 2000 the latest would have been a ~500mhz Pentium III, which would have been a ~650% improvement in processing speed. As a result, you didn't tend to hang onto old equipment for a huge amount of time.

      In 2020 a ten year old computer could be a i7-970 which runs at 3.2Ghz with 6 cores. It's replacement from this year could well be a 3.5Ghz i9-9900K with 8 cores. While there is certainly some difference in performance over ten years, let's be honest; the older processor will still run the programs and take maybe a couple of seconds longer to load. As a result, the users don't buy replacement hardware because the existing equipment does the job perfectly well.

      That just means that you have a mature market where the people flogging wares aren't offering enough value to the customer to cause them to part with their money.

      1. RM Myers Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

        Very true. Plus with the prices of SSD's continuing to fall, you can cheaply make that 10 year old computer run much faster than when you bought it. Adding an SSD to an old computer is almost as good as buying a new computer, but it is much cheaper.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

          Very true. Plus with the prices of SSD's continuing to fall, you can cheaply make that 10 year old computer run much faster than when you bought it. Adding an SSD to an old computer is almost as good as buying a new computer, but it is much cheaper.

          Is that why Apple welds their storage right on to the motherboard now?

      2. Blank Reg

        Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

        Except that this still means trouble for the industry. This industry was built for growth, and that growth is all but gone, apart from temporary anomalies. Things will correct themselves, there will be more layoffs and a few more players may drop out, leaving even fewer choices for buyers.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

          >This industry was built for growth, and that growth is all but gone...leaving even fewer choices for buyers.

          The writing was on the wall years back - remember PC shipments have been in steady decline since 2011. Which suggests if your business (in 2020) is still predicated on market growth...

          However, in such a market where the pressures on the very high volume system builders are increasing, there will be opportunities for efficient low volume builders. So yes the choice in the majors (think PC World) will be reduced, but the choice in the market is likely to be better albeit at a slightly higher price.

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

          Things will correct themselves, there will be more layoffs and a few more players may drop out, leaving even fewer choices for buyers.

          I know, it's getting harder to buy reasonably-priced systems that aren't crap-shit Dell.

      3. Moonrunner

        Re: "restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels"

        Yeah, I'm running an i7-3770 rig with 32 gigs of RAM, that's like 7-8 years old. The only upgrade (other than the peripherals) was going from SSD+HDD to 2xSSD when the HDD crapped out a couple of years ago. Since I don't do gaming, I really don't see myself needing any upgrades for at least another 5 years.

  2. jason 7 Silver badge

    I have to say...

    ...as an IT support guy, business has been pretty good the past few months. Been working on a lot more gaming rigs too.

    But yeah new tech is largely irrelevant to 80% of 'normal users' especially in business.

    When lockdown happened I was telling my local business folks that suddenly needed to work from home to buy refurbed Lenovo T430's with i5/8GB/240GB SSD and Win10 Pro. All for around £330 a pop! When you suddenly need 5 machines for your staff that's a good deal.

    Same for desktops. Looking at £150 a go for the same spec. Why buy new? Does Karen on reception need that 32GB Threadripper box?

    1. Rattus

      Re: I have to say...

      great post right up to the last sentence....

      "Does the person at the reception desk really need the 32GB Threadripper box" would have been better...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have to say...

        "Does the person [...]"

        Karen is a binary name depending on their European cultural influences. There are many names that people assume are only male or female - until they make the wrong contextual assumption about a Kim, Maria, Chris, Marion, Davey, ....

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: I have to say...

      buy refurbed Lenovo T430's with i5/8GB/240GB SSD and Win10 Pro. All for around £330 a pop!

      Really? The T420 I bought last summer cost me 25 bucks. Yes, I did bump it up to 16G later, and run Fedora on it (haven't changed to SSD yet) and it's still better than the crap they're selling now. One particular problem is the lack of laptops that still have optical drives. We still use the laptops for watching DVDs, so no optical drive means no sale.

      For that matter, I don't AT ALL understand these $2000 tower gaming rigs with NO optical drives, and no drive bays to put one in. At that kind of money, it had BETTER have *two* BD-R drives. (and none of those stupid lucite panels on the sides)

      1. Boothy Silver badge

        Re: I have to say...

        Quote: "For that matter, I don't AT ALL understand these $2000 tower gaming rigs with NO optical drives, and no drive bays to put one in."

        1. Because no one provides software on disks anymore, and haven't done for years, and where the drives did sit in a gaming case, is better served most of the time as an additional cooling intake instead, and is often used for mounting an AIO or water cooling rad. A 5.25 drive is just dead weight for most people, and...

        2. It's also not really true, a quick look at cases on CCL online, and filter by external 5.25 bay, and there are 8 pages of cases (20 per page) with at least 1 x 5.25 bay. Reverse the search to only show cases that don't have any 5.25 bays, and there are 10 pages instead. So still around 45% of cases with at least one 5.25 bay. (4 pages for 2 x 5.25 bays or more, and they have two Phanteks with 5 x 5.25 bays each).

        And these aren't all some knock-of budget case from brands you've never heard of, these cases with a 5.25 drive bay include brands like Corsair, Phantek, Be Quiet, Fractal Design, Thermaltake and so on.

        Personally I don't really use DVDs or Blu-Rays (although I do have a few in a drawer), but I still prefer to buy my music on CDs, and I have a small Samsung USB DVD reader/writer for the occasions when I want to rip a new audio disk, which I can just plug into whichever machine I'm using at the time.

        1. jason 7 Silver badge

          Re: I have to say...

          Yes optical media is a nightmare! Has anyone used it recently? I ended up having to rebuild a PC using the Windows DVD a few weeks ago. It took forever. So used to plugging a USB3 stick into a SSD equipped laptop and having it all down in 5 mins or so.

          Optical is a waste of time in most cases. Hello to the 21st Century.

          1. Boothy Silver badge

            Re: I have to say...

            Last semi regular use of optical disks for me was due to my previous car, which was about 12 years old when I finally replaced it about 3 years ago.

            The car had no USB, but did have a CD autochanger in the boot. So I had one of those zip up CD caddies in the boot, with something like 30 burned CDs in there, which I'd swap around occasionally (I never use my original CDs outside of the house). I'd just clone any new CDs I bought (at the same time I'd also rip them digitally).

            Don't think I've installed an OS off of a disk since I bought Windows 7 on DVD back in 2009! I ended up eventually ripping the DVD to an ISO, then creating a USB from the ISO which I kept in the same box as the original DVDs (which still sits on the shelf in from of me to this day).

            1. jason 7 Silver badge

              Re: I have to say...

              Those were the days! I had a 6 disk Sony...Minidisc changer in my Puma's glovebox.

              Man I loved Mini-Disc.

              1. Boothy Silver badge

                Re: I have to say...

                Ah, never did Minidisc.

                I basically went from cassettes to CDs & MP3 in one step.

                Except for my last 3 cars, (which have all had modern fully integrated ICE systems that you can't really swap out), I'd always had older cars that had the standard letterbox sized hole for the ICE unit.

                Pre 2000s I had a decent cassette unit that I moved from car to car, and then back in early 2000s I replaced that with a CD player, but it also included a USB socket and a SD card slot, it could also play MP3s from a CD. So all my music just ended up on SD cards for quite a few years.

                Still have the ICE unit, sat in it's original box, just in case I ever got another car that might use it! (Always fancied building a Westfield one day, but life/family etc :-\ ).

                The newer cars ended up being a step backwards in some regards (better cars, but poorer factory fitted ICE), as although they both had CD auto changers in the boot, neither could handle USB or SD cards, or digital files at all. Hence going back to burning CDs for a while.

                Current car doesn't have an auto changer either, just a single CD slot up front, but it can at least use USB drives, so CDs gone, and back to MP3s again! Tried OGGs but no go :-(

  3. Lon24

    Boom to Bust?

    COVID-19 generates a new market for PCs. A lot of people needed as good a computer at home as in the office. Or another one or two if brat junior and minor are zooming their schoolteachers.

    COVID-19 supressed - kids return to school but a lot of mums and dads won't be returning to work. No need for more home based kit. Whereas their old employers (or the liquidators) will be selling off thousands of perfectly good office PCs together with a good many offices. Itzoo and their competitors will, I forecast, be looking to try and shift a glut of perfectly good used kit by the end of the year.

    Lower demand and more supply do not a good profit margin make. Especially on desktops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boom to Bust?

      "A lot of people needed as good a computer at home as in the office. "

      In the office our desk computers were bulk purchased to the lowest common denominator specification. Most of us had our own more powerful PCs at home - where we could do our developments to use in the office.

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    False Dawn

    The blip in sales has more to do with the Pandemic than any underlying market fundamentals. Some were definitely caught with the wrong type or rather aging kit that was not up to the new demands. But many were not. Neither my personal kit nor company kit needed any upgrading because of the pandemic as it is more than adequate for the my needs (personally and professionally). I suspect there are many who are like me, the adjustment was to find a workspace at home and get set rather than needing much in the line of new kit.

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: False Dawn

      Same here, neither myself or the company have bought any new kit for use at home. The only work I'm aware of by the company was to bolster up the VPN a bit, as it was getting sluggish, but most people don't need VPN anyway (docs are in Sharepoint etc), it's only really used by support and development people to gain access into the network when they need to utilise a server on the corp LAN etc.

      The only change I've done at home, is to set up a new desk, so I can have my personal stuff, and work stuff, set up at the same time, and separately, as I was having to swap stuff around on the same desk previously.

      Also means I can compartmentalise a bit better, one desk for work, one desk for personal, which I'm certain is better for the old mental health!

      1. JJKing
        Facepalm

        Re: False Dawn

        most people don't need VPN anyway

        Really? A business doesn't need a VPN to provide a secure way for staff to access their work files that are located on the work Servers? Ok, nice to know.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: False Dawn

          It is possible to stick your storage on OneDrive or whatever and then you don't need a VPN because your connecting to office.com via SSL and it's secured that way.

          It wouldn't work for us and I can think of plenty of reasons why it's not worth doing, but it's certainly possible to do.

        2. Boothy Silver badge

          Re: False Dawn

          I did say most people, not all people.

          We banned the use of file shares many years ago.

          Almost everything was migrated to SharePoint and OneDrive for Business (so basically SharePoint again of course!), and being part of Office/Microsoft 365, are all accessible over the Internet without VPN. (But does require muti-factor login using a corporate account, the connection of course uses https/TLS anyway, plus all devices, laptops etc, all have full disk encryption enabled).

          It's also a requirement that if using public Internet, such as in a cafe, train station etc, or using a guest network, such as on a client site, that we use VPN then.

          We do have a few additional colab/data storage/version control tools, such as Confluence, GitLab etc. and those are all behind VPN, but those are mostly only needed by technical staff, developers etc. If your role is more admin/management etc. Then you'd rarely need to access these systems, if at all, hence the most people comment.

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