Coronavirus continues to impact tech industry, worldwide device shipments to plummet 14%

A shift to remote working, however, has prevented the PC market from collapsing.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

COVID-19 continues to cause suffering worldwide and the pandemic is expected to continue causing economic disruption on an international scale. 

The technology industry, ranging from the deployment of cloud to personal device purchases, has keenly felt the impact of the public health emergency in everything from the supply chain to delayed investment for business transformation. 

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It was not understood at the beginning of 2020 just how far the spread of the respiratory disease would change the face of modern business, forcing companies to close down offices and prompting a scramble to establish remote working practices. 

Earlier this month, research firm Gartner revised its worldwide IT spending -- including devices purchases, data center investment, cloud solutions, and enterprise software -- predictions from $3.9 trillion over 2020 to $3.4 trillion

Device shipments have received a further amendment, with expenditure relating to PCs, tablets, and mobile devices set to decline by 13.6% in 2020, totaling 1.9 billion units in comparison to approximately 2.2 billion units in 2019. 

PC shipments are expected to slide by 10.5%. Due to ongoing transitions to remote working practices, it is predicted that the sale of notebooks, tablets, and Chromebooks will decline more slowly.


However, the research agency says that the forecast could have been "much worse," and the work from home trend has "saved the PC market from collapse."

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Employees now asked to work from home need the right equipment to be able to do so, and this may include company purchases of PCs and mobile devices, or remote working could be seen as an expansion of standard Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes, passing on the purchase decisions to members of staff. 

It is unlikely that things will be 'business as usual' in the near future, with some companies already mulling over permanent work from home options. Gartner expects that close to half of enterprise employees will end up working from home at least some of the time after the pandemic is over, in comparison to an average of 30% pre-pandemic that already had this option.

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"Government lockdowns due to COVID-19 forced businesses and schools to enable millions of people to work from home and increase spending on new notebooks, Chromebooks and tablets for those workers," says Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner. "Education and government establishments also increased spending on those devices to facilitate e-learning."

The smartphone industry, too, has been rocked by COVID-19. Shipments of mobile phones worldwide are predicted to decline by 14.6% over 2020, in which smartphones -- rather than basic feature phones -- will decline by 13.7% year-over-year to total 1.3 billion units. 

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Reductions in disposable income and caution over spending factor into the sales slump, and while 5G devices were expected to encourage smartphone upgrades, these types of devices are now predicted to only account for 11% of total shipments over 2020.

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