The rise of remote working and elearning has created unprecedented demand for new laptops, leading to a severe shortage ahead of the new school year.
While the increase in demand spans laptops at all price points, affordable models often used by school and university students – such as Chromebooks – are particularly scarce.
The shortage is said to be especially acute in the United States, but Google Trends data shows a global spike in search traffic for “Chromebooks” and “school laptops” in recent weeks, suggesting consumers worldwide may struggle to get their hands on a new machine.
The initial increase in laptop demand was witnessed in March and April, as workers transitioned to the home office. Many schools are also said to have loaned out devices to students when lockdown policies first took effect, in a bid to make elearning a viable option, increasing device wear and shortening the potential lifespan.
Laptops sales have reportedly been up 20-40% every week since offices closed, with search traffic for associated terms peaking in late March. This spike also coincided with factory closures in China, caused by outbreaks in the region, which created bottlenecks in the laptop supply chain.
The supply chain is yet to recover fully from the initial shock; factories are still grappling with a shortage of components, such as batteries, processors, screens and chassis. Shipping delays have also hampered the efforts of companies to meet fresh demand.
According to Gregg Prendergast, President at Acer US, the increase in demand is “historic” and vendors are “not even close” to being able to provide the volume of Chromebooks necessary to satisfy the needs of remote workers and learners.
Last week alone, for example, Acer received orders for hundreds of thousands of devices from public sector organizations in California and Nevada, setting aside purchases from the private sector and individual consumers.
For those unable to get hold of an affordable laptop ahead of the school year or for the purposes of remote working, tablets could provide a workable alternative.