back to article Everything must go! Distributors clear shelves of ALL notebooks in Q2, even ones gathering dust over last 12 months

Businesses and consumers emptied distributors’ warehouses of notebooks across the UK during Q2 as lockdown kicked in, even buying stock that had been sat on the shelves for 12 months gathering dust. According to sales-out shipment figures from Context, 1.363 million PCs were sold via distributors to resellers and onto end …

  1. Colonel Mad

    Oh dear

    1.2 million disappointed customers!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So will this frenzy continue and for how long?

    it would be ironic if most of this hardware ended up back on ebay and elsewhere, with (hopefully not) mass redundancies.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Web cams also

    disappear as soon as they hit the shelves.

  4. karlkarl Silver badge

    Hopefully it is not the case but it does make me worry how many "IT specialists" do not bother to make sure they have the right equipment at home.

    How do they expect to set up a home lab, test software and generally be productive with just a consumer phone or tablet? They sound a bit like frauds to me.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Some of us like to switch off from work every now and again...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How do they expect to set up a home lab, test software and generally be productive with just a consumer phone or tablet? They sound a bit like frauds to me."

      Over time you will discover some employees are more professional than others my pimply faced youth.

      It's lunchtime, lets discuss it over a beer.

      1. Glen 1 Silver badge

        " set up a home lab, test software"

        Company time. Company kit.

        If I have to buy it myself, its to train for the *next* job.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      I don't claim to be in the upper echelons of IT, but I worked my entire career in it, let me describe to you every piece of functional (i.e. turned on and vaguely modern) kit in my house:

      1 laptop (until this week, was 2008 model, now I have a 2020 model!).

      3 Raspberry Pis (2 x Pi4, 1 x Pi 3)

      A laser printer from 2000 (no exaggeration).

      A router from 2010.

      A 4G box from 2018.

      A projector from 2010.

      A smartphone (2020 model, but quite budget).

      And that's... pretty much... it.

      However this week alone I spent £25k+ on Chromebooks for work, not to mention monitors, PCs, laptops, phones, etc.

      The reason is quite simple. When I need to do work, I connect to the work stuff. Which is £100k+ of servers and same again just for the networking. When I'm at home, I just need stuff for me, and to connect to work (where the real stuff is).

      Hell, I've been issuing junk to people just so they had something to get online with so they could remote in and use their "real" work PCs and so on. Now I wouldn't expect some IT guru to have *nothing* at home like some people, but they don't need to take all the proper kit home - and if they're dealing with data, they damn well shouldn't be!

      And I have done my job entirely from a foreign country using a phone before now. It's not fun, but it's possible. Now that we're in the era of HDMI / USB / Bluetooth on phones, connecting a mouse/keyboard/monitor to one and using it as a full PC is more than viable - they are actually damn powerful nowadays! But you don't need to have a lot at home to log in and use the real kit.

      There's actually a psychology at work here. I will in preference issue a merely "technically viable" device, over some shiny new expensive kit. It encourages people to actually go out and get their own if they want something better, while removing all "I can't work from home because the company didn't issue me with anything" nonsense. If you gave them Macbook Pros (or whatever), they'd ALL want one, it would cost a fortune, and anything else wouldn't be seen as acceptable, even for the new kid or the IT guy who already has everything at home.

      Give them something that is viable - not just minimum spec, but enough that they can't really complain about it. Then if they want something better, they can shell out for it. But if they have nothing at all, they'll be grateful for it. You save tons of money. Everyone is happy. And the techy guy can pay-for and use what he likes (if you have such a daft policy).

      I find laptops, especially, to be a status symbol item. Someone gets one not because they need it but because they want to be seen to need it (they're SO important, obviously, that they've got to have a way onto the system even at 3am, etc.). Then others want them because X has got one. Then everyone strives to get one and kicks up a fuss because "Well, X was given one, aren't I as valuable an employee?". And before you know it you're paying for everyone to have laptops that nobody uses, but that many people break or just use for their home browsing despite it being a corporate device.

      If you don't go down that route, or if you stop at the "This is perfectly adequate, and that's all you're getting" line, then it works far better.

      1. abortnow

        I am now retired, but while working and now my home IT gear has always been rather more than most IT staff have at home. Even so, much of my work was done either directly on a works laptop (nothing else could establish a work VPN) or via it to the real kit. The power of works laptops was dependant on need. Only developers, with management approval, got beefy machines. Most were not replaced until at least 5 years old. New starters generally got functional but old machines. Few could write to CD/DVD or USB devices without the result being encrypted. I could, as I had a need to produce boot devices. This was challenged at least annually. I had to fight hard to justify my retaining my works PC as well as a laptop.

        For a while I had a works rack-mount screaming away in a spare(ish) room at home to test various ESXI upgrade paths and guest behaviour. That made me stop yearning for a rack of my own.

      2. Mr Sceptical


        We've only got ~25 staff so I've always had a policy of issuing staff something that give them maximum productivity without going overboard. Started with moving all the O/S drives from spinning rust around 2010 as those .Net updates we're always a massive time waster when they arrived.

        In recent years, more than half the staff have laptops as they need to work in different locations but it's amazing how a laptop will always be 'too heavy' to carry eveywhere. It's almost as if all that data increases it's mass.

        More than once I've had to point out that so-and-so's laptop may look lighter (newer and shinier) but it actually weighs the same or more...!

        Screen size is also a stupid contention point - they all want smaller, then increase the text size cause it's too hard to read. They're always amazed I can read 100% text and I point out that's why I wear glasses...

        Icon for my blood pressure now --- >

    4. tomeh

      Many companies dictate that "company work" is done on "company assets". While under lockdown this generally means remote access to either a remote private datacentre or public cloud vendor, all of which can be done via just about any device - Laptop, Chromebook, tablet, etc.

    5. doublelayer Silver badge

      "How do they expect to set up a home lab, test software and generally be productive with just a consumer phone or tablet? They sound a bit like frauds to me."

      Why would they be expected to do any of those things:

      "set up a home lab": In normal circumstances, why would I? If I need a lab, there's probably one in the office I'm expected to use. If I have to work from home and keep using the lab's type of hardware, I will either do so from a remote terminal if possible or take the equipment that's already in that lab home with me. If the company doesn't want me to do either of those, they can pay for the lab equipment that I use for them. If I want to have my own home lab, maybe I'll have some of those devices. If I don't want one, my company shouldn't care.

      "test software": Why? If I'm testing software for work use, I use work machines. That's the machine in my office, my work laptop, the machine in my office via the work laptop, or one of the servers I have access to. So all I need is the work laptop.

      "generally be productive with just a consumer phone or tablet": I don't expect to do that. I expect to be generally productive with work-provided kit. If I need more kit because my job requires it, then work has to provide that. If I happen to have replacements at home, I may volunteer to use them instead of having my work buy and send me them, but otherwise, it's their problem not mine. I'm currently expected to be productive, and I use my own peripherals because I like them, but the computer they're connected to is work-issued. That's all they should expect me to use.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I don’t want people working on any developments for my company that aren’t using a locked down machine under my control. If someone needs a machine they get it, they can even take it home if they want. Imagine if the source code to a device leaked from a private machine to the Internet and then once thousands of boxes are installed someone pops up with a ransom demand to not brick them all.

    7. Justthefacts

      Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

      Most people doing “Real Work” aren’t IT staff or require powerful CPUs for anything much.

      It’s very much a minority sport.

      And most IT staff don’t need to run large compilation jobs on their computers. Neither do testers.

      You’re not going to like this, but *by far* the workforce requiring most CPU power at their fingertips is graphic designers, artists, architects, jewellers, film and TV industry, ad and marketing agencies. Creatives doing image creation and manipulation, basically.

      Software dev teams mostly don’t “develop software” on “their computers”. They use “their computers” as *text entry terminals*, running Visual Studio, Eclipse or whatever frontends. But stuff like source control, continuous integration, compilation, unit testing etc etc....all takes place on company servers. For good reasons. Of course, every company is different, and yes there are exceptions.

      What most developers actually need is two high-quality screens, a decent ergonomic keyboard, any old laptop so long as it’s company standard, and a fast network connection to the servers. By far the most CPU intensive thing they do is have ten different Chrome tabs open on the browser for various forums and bits of documentation.

      Millions of people doing Real Work find that first laptops, and mostly tablets actually (with keyboard accessory if necessary), are a better match to their work needs than desktops or workstations, and there are now barely a few thousand dinosaur holdouts. How much more Market Data do you need to change your mind?

      1. richardcox13

        Re: Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

        But stuff like source control, continuous integration, compilation, unit testing etc etc....all takes place on company servers.

        After having run it locally. Debugging and testing is what you are doing most of the time, and that means running things locally. Plus the database and all the other dependencies running locally.

        If you just want a text editor there are better options than Visual Studio.

      2. Waseem Alkurdi

        Re: Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t


        1. Precordial thump

          Re: Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

          Ruby and Perl programmers

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

        I don't think that's necessarily true. While most devs don't have a need for the kind of processing that graphic designers do, their workload is often heavier than text entry. In my work, I enter text for a while, then I compile and test locally. This may not require much power (it doesn't do any GPU-accelerated work at all, for example), but if I had to wait five times as long for a really low-end processor to compile some of my bigger projects, I'd be rather irritated. It's true that, when I'm done with my code, I push it to a remote server which compiles again and runs a bunch of automatic tests, but that doesn't liberate me from having to test locally. Most of the time, the automatic unit tests are sanity checks on things that could have broken inadvertently, but if I'm adding new functionality, I not only have to unit test myself, but I also have to run more thorough tests to verify that, not only do the small bits work, but they are put together in such a way that the big goal happens too. I don't push that to a server primarily because I don't want to wait around for my test data to be uploaded (sometimes medium-sized files) a job to be queued, eventually run on a new build environment, a log to be produced, the log to be put in the files section, download the log, then open it to see whether it worked. Instead, I can run the program locally right now, specifying to print the log to the terminal, and see what happens in real time. If the program I'm testing is one that needs substantial processing, and some but not all are, then having a better CPU means I can do that more efficiently.

      4. P. Lee

        Re: Do you ever change your mind, based on data?t

        Don't forget the requirement for stupidly sized spreadsheets!

    8. VicMortimer

      I'm a freelancer, my house is full of all kinds of gear, including a couple of racks of servers and switches.

      But If I was an employee? If a company wanted me to have that gear at home, they'd be buying it for me, and paying rent for the space and the utility bill for the power and cooling it needs.

      And "consumer phone"? WTF is a "consumer phone"? There's no separate "business" iPhone product line.

    9. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Many industries have strict privacy regulations which essentially mandate that all work is done on company kit with no exceptions. I happen to be in one of these industries and have a company laptop. Many people were buying new kit because they needed more devices than they had for the rest of the family (kids connecting to school, etc.). These will be most 1 time purchases, nice bump while it happens but not a permanent increase in sales.

  5. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

    A quick look showed plenty of Thinkpad models for sale on eBay. Many of these are quite suitable for use for people working from home. (examples T430 i5-3320M, 16GB, 512GB SSD, W10 Pro, 12 month warranty £400 - T430 i5-2520M, 8GB, 180GB SSD, W10 £200).

    1. Col_Panek

      Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

      And much more suitable when properly fitted with a Linux operating system.

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

        Even a global pandemic won’t be enough to make 2020 the year of Linux on the desktop.

        1. VicMortimer

          Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

          No, it already is.

          The schools here are handing out thousands of Chromebooks this year. One for every student. Millions of them are being handed out across the country.

          Linux on the desktop happened while you weren't looking.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

            ...and if it's not ChromeBooks, it's iPads (also essentially *nix, based Darwin). We've delivered 1000's upon 1000's of both in the last year alone to education..

    2. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

      Second- or third-gen Core i5? Runs hotter than an oven, battery lasts 30 minutes, if one is being generous.

      1. P. Lee

        Re: Still plenty of good used laptops on eBay

        You may be right, but does that matter when what's required is a full system sitting on the dining-room table?

        The requirement is for something small enough that it can be put out of the way when dinnertime rolls around.

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