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Across the digital landscape, the pandemic has sped up the big moves towards e-commerce, cord-cutting, and remote work.
But one tech trend has completely reversed. While personal computer sales had been drifting downwards since its peak in 2011, this year could mark one of the sharpest increases since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were working out of their garage. People are even buying printers again!
We heard from Apple about its record Mac sales last month. Last night, both Dell Technologies and HP also reported their most recent quarterly results and the news was all about personal computer sales.
Delve into Dell’s sales and you see that overall revenue rose 3%, but its PC unit was up 8%. Inside of PC sales, consumer sales were up 14%. Consumer sales online were up 47%. And Chromebook sales more than doubled. The results were better than analysts expected and Dell’s stock, already up 37% this year, rose another 1% in pre-market trading this morning.
“I don’t think you can get by having [one] PC for everyone in the home now,” Dell COO Jeff Clarke commented to analysts Tuesday. “You have two parents likely working from home, you have multiple children working from home, it’s a multi-PC environment in the home today and I don’t think that largely changes.”
At HP, the company’s fiscal fourth quarter revenue shrank by 1% overall, but sales to consumers rose 24% for PCs and 21% for printers. The company’s “premium” consumer segment, which includes items like its gorgeous blue metal Dragonfly laptop, rose 29%. Chromebook sales (tell me if you’ve heard this one before) more than doubled. HP’s stock, up only 6% this year so far, gained another 6% in premarket trading Wednesday.
“PCs have become essential [as what] people needed for working, for learning, for gaming, for entertaining, for communicating,” HP CEO Enrique Lores noted. “And the trend that we see is for every person to have their own PC, and this is really driving significant demand.”
Analyst Amit Daryanani from Evercore joked about the strong results: “Congratulations on a nice print quite literally from you guys.”
The question is whether the PC trend has staying power. Wall Street seems convinced it’s a permanent change, but I’m more skeptical. There’s strong pent-up demand for travel, for getting off Zoom, for going back to the office and to school among the pandemic-weary public. Buying yet another laptop in 2021? I don’t think so.