While the COVID-19 lockdown measures are slowly being eased, work-life won’t be returning to anything near normal for quite some time, and predictions for sales of computer hardware are looking poor for the rest of 2020.

According to the latest worldwide device shipment forecasts from Gartner, the economic downturn of the coronavirus lockdown paints a bleak picture of the PC market. IT decision-makers need to start assessing how to support remote working, as this looks set to become normal working practice.

It will fall to CIOs and IT departments to assess the measures that will be needed to support their organisations during the government’s response to the pandemic.

As Gartner predicts a decline in PC sales by 10 per cent, and smartphones by 14.6 per cent, the analyst firm’s senior researcher Ranjit Atwal noted that the forecast paints a depressing picture for the market.

“The market is being pushed and pulled by different forces, one of which is the lockdown across many countries which is an upside for the PC market, around working from home,” said Atwal.

He continued to say that the lockdown measures have forced businesses and schools to enable millions of people to work from home and to increase spending on new notebooks, Chromebooks, and tablets for workers.

Gartner’s forecast estimates that 48 per cent of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after the coronavirus pandemic, compared to 30 per cent pre-pandemic. Overall, the work-from-home trend will make IT departments shift to more notebooks, tablets and Chrome devices for work.

“This trend, combined with businesses required to create flexible business continuity plans, will make business notebooks displace desk-based PCs through 2021 and 2022,” said Atwal.

One of the biggest impacts felt by the market will be that businesses will not be replacing computers due to the economic downturn, hitting sales of PCs even further.

If there is an increase in working from home, Atwal believes businesses will need to think about the IT required to support employees. “They will have to be fully immersed,” he said. “The PC needs to be reinvented to make it more conducive for working for home.”

Julien Codorniou, vice-president of Workplace from Facebook, believes that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the size of the collaboration market by two billion people. It is no longer just about office workers, who may have experience in using communications and video conferencing.

He said: “Look at Walmart or Nestle. Factory workers never had email. Now with COVID-19, these people need to be connected and supported – the market for workers who need IT has been expanded to frontline workers.”

He went on to note that only a few software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies can address this market.

Given that many millions of people use Facebook and are familiar with its user interface, he said that using Workplace should be relatively straightforward for those individuals who do not normally require a PC for work.

Frontline workers may well need a way to communicate with those employees who are working remotely, especially if coronavirus social-distancing measures prevent them from having face-to-face interaction with colleagues.

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