Lenovo Group, the world’s biggest maker of personal computers, is expecting year-on-year PC sales to begin growing again in the first quarter of the current financial year, it chairman Yang Yuanqing, said this week. Production is now back on track, he said after it had been forced to shut down several factories, – including a big plant in ‘pandemic central’, the Chinese city of Wuhan – at the peak of the crisis. The situation became so extreme that Lenovo had had to share its staff with other firms and send office employees to work on assembly lines when production workers were in quarantine.
But that was now all in the past and production was now back up to 100% he claimed, although he also acknowledged that that some components were still in short supply.
Yang is also predicting that the total addressable market for PCs industry-wide could increase by between 25% and 30% over the next two to three as demand for PCs and smart devices – as well as for data-center services – were likely to rise in line with the growth in the number people both willing, able and allowed by their employers to work permanently from home.
…but has the metropolis had its day in the sun?
It is becoming increasingly likely, however, that one of the consequences of the current pandemic will be an acceleration of the trend towards home working that was already on an upward curve. In the UK, for instance, figures amassed by the TUC national trade union federation indicate that the number of homeworkers had risen by almost 28% increase over the last decade even before coronavirus struck. This has led people to muse that the silence that has recently descended on the building sites beneath the cranes dotted across London’s skyline (and that of most other major conurbations around the world) may be more than temporary. Even though the rate of building work is gradually picking up, property developers now face the prospect of their finished products lying empty indefinitely as companies re-think how much office space they are going to need, not just in the short-term context of the looming recession and the risk of a second wave of infection, but also of a longer-term and more fundamental move away from big city life as we know it.
Many analysts are now predicting that liveable cities with modest to small populations will recover more quickly than dense metropolitan areas and may possibly even enjoy real-estate and wider economic booms as people look for options for reinvention and the chance to start over in locations that offer good and affordable quality of life and relative safety from a new pandemic. The possibility of another COVID-19 crisis will be on everybody’s minds for the foreseeable future and small cities and rural areas offering the possibility for appealing yet physically distanced living will become all the more appealing – providing broadband providers can meet demand for ever more bandwidth.