Are PC sales headed for a crash?

Work at home fill out can’t continue

Posted: By Jon Peddie 04.27.21

The much welcomed and glorious reports of PC shipments encouraging as they may be, obviously can’t continue. The surge in sales, primarily due to commercial PCs, is from the provisioning home offices in reaction to the pandemic shutdown. The short-term

increase in PC and peripheral shipments is certainly welcome by the industry, but it is perhaps less welcomed by the companies and people making those purchases. It was and is an unexpected expense. And it raises the question of how the corporations are going to manage this new flux of PC inventory.

Just about everyone who wanted or needed a new PC by now must have it. What does that say about the forecast for PC shipments? It suggests that demand will dry up and that by the end of this year be flat or even negative.

If corporations demand that workers resume their killer commutes every day so they can suffer in a soulless office, then what will be done with the equipment they have at home? Will they be obliged to bring it into the office and return it to the company?

If workers are allowed to continue to work at home, who is responsible for the PC’s maintenance, upgrades, security, and backup, and storage?

A hybrid system is spoken about frequently whereby office workers will come to the office one or two days a week and continue working at home the other days. In the case of retail businesses, workers will probably have to come back full time.

It will likely take another year or so for all organizations to settle into a new mode of operation, but it’s hard to imagine government offices continuing to allow employees to work at home — that would just defeat the power base of the bureaucracy and probably give them hives.

Average PC shipments over time


Regardless of how the workload is distributed between home and the office, corporations, government, and universities will now have close to twice the inventory of PCs they had before the pandemic hit. Corporations have various ways of dealing with old and obsolete equipment. Some organizations gave them away to poorer countries and or schools; some try to trade them in for new systems putting the burden of disposal on the PC maker or the retailer. And some old PCs, perhaps most, are simply ground-up and put in the landfill.

There are balance sheet issues as well, depending upon the capitalization and amortization of this equipment. Suppose workers are allowed to continue to be productive at home and avoid the dreaded loss of humanity by commuting to the corporations. In that case, the organizations that support remote workers will find themselves with aging and unwanted equipment in the offices.

Regardless of how all this sorts out, there will be a surplus of PCs which will suppress the sales of new PCs. We saw what happened to the AIB suppliers when they overreacted to the cyber-currency gold rush of 2017. In reality, discrete GPUs are in less than 50% of the PCs currently sold. If the glut of AIB’s in 2018 was disturbing, you can only imagine how the industry will react when the market goes to zero because the home offices have already been outfitted with what they need, for now.

The Morning commute can ruin productivity  (Photo by Ujuk Safar on Unsplash)