Is the Sizzling Laptop Market Finally Cooling Down?
The pandemic sent everyone scrambling for new laptops, but that rush may be subsiding
The global pandemic disrupted a lot of business IT spending plans, with one of the most noticeable areas being the jump in unplanned laptop purchases. The spike in worldwide laptop PC shipments (from 173 million in 2019 to 222.5 million in 2020 as well as a forecasted 276.8 million this year, according to Statista) was spurred by desktop PC–reliant office workers that suddenly had to be equipped to work at home, as well as by homebound students who needed a device to connect to online learning.
Of course, such an anomalous surge could not last forever. The dissipation of pandemic-fueled purchases coupled with the headwinds of chip shortages are key reasons that the red-hot laptop market is cooling down. In 2022, Statista estimates that worldwide laptop shipments will dip to around 263 million. Indeed, the (alleged) smart money on Wall Street has pushed down the stock price of HP Inc. in recent days, with one of the primary rationales of analysts being that the peak has passed for desktop and laptop PC sales.
Looking further into the future, we expect that competing technologies to traditional PCs will have an impact in the next business technology purchase cycle. Our research has shown ongoing interest on the part of IT-purchase decision makers for all things cloud, with cloud-based solutions for business processes being identified as a top business priority by 42% of respondents in our pre-pandemic (late 2019) survey of IT decision makers. And we are confident that percentage will be even higher when we ask that same question in our upcoming study later this year.
Many companies had already moved their customer relationship management (CRM) to the cloud with the likes of salesforce.com, and those that hadn’t yet embraced electronic file sync & share (EFS&S) in the form of Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive, or others largely did so during the pandemic.
The next frontier is migrating the entire PC environment to the cloud. Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offerings take the concept of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) one step further. Instead of using the Internet to access a single application that is running on a server in a remote data center, users access their entire desktop environments via a simple web browser. With DaaS, end users don’t need a full-blown PC to get work done; a $200 Chromebook or a tablet with a keyboard will suffice.
In the long run, that could spell bad news for sales of traditional PCs in the business space. There is also growing evidence that DaaS is gaining steam. In July, Microsoft announced Windows 365, which promises to deliver a full PC experience in the cloud to any device. Even PC pioneer HP has gotten in on the game; in late July, the company announced a definitive agreement to acquire Teradici Corporation, a DaaS provider that enables users to securely access high-performance computing from any PC, Chromebook, or tablet.
We fully expect DaaS to become a viable alternative—and threat—to the traditional PC market. Microsoft and HP, at least, are already hedging their bets and committing to both technologies. It will be telling to see if other vendors that rely heavily on the sale of PCs do the same.
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