The global COVID-19 pandemic might have been hard on Microsoft, forcing the company to delay dual-screen PCs like Surface Neo, and also rethink Windows 10X, but the PC industry and many of Microsoft partners might have benefited, too. According to a report from Reuters, the world stocked up on laptops at a level "not seen since the iPhone debuted."
Driven by the need for remote learning, as well as a large majority of the world population being forced to work from home, data shows that global PC shipments surged up 15% from a year ago in 2019. Analysts cited by Reuters also expect that global PC shipments will top at 300 million in 2020, which is the same level seen in 2008 when the iPhone first surged to the market. Even heading into the new year, the total number of PCs and tablets could curve up to 1.77 billion, which is up from 1.64 billion in 2019, per data from the firm Canalys, as obtained by Reuters.
But this no doubt has been hard on the supply and demand side of the PC industry. Microsoft didn't refresh the Surface Pro lineup in 2020 with Surface Pro 8, or even the Surface Laptop lineup with Surface Laptop 4. That's likely because of the lockdown impacting assembly plants overseas. Per Reuters, "components including screens and processors are hard to even get."
Even with the struggles to keep up, there's no doubt that PC sales have surged. According to Reuters, Dell’s online orders from consumers surged 62% in the third quarter compared with last year. Even Microsoft benefited, and though it doesn't report Surface sales numbers directly, noted a similar surge in the last quarter. In its More Personal Computing division, Surface revenue increased 37%, and the company's total revenue in the division was up 6%, at 11.8 billion.
As vaccines start to roll out, there is a small sense of normalcy ahead in 2021, but the PC industry might be off to new places in the coming year. Perhaps with the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, rumor has it that together with its partners, Microsoft is looking to launch Windows 10X on new commercial devices for education. We don't know much about it, but with this big momentum, there could only brighter moments ahead.