PCs have kept the world working, learning, engaged in the new normal

Surge in PC Usage

The PC is back in high demand this year. According to Gartner, globally, PC shipments grew 2.8% in the second quarter of 2020. In India, demand for laptops surged 40-45% in the first few weeks of March when organisations scrambled to equip employees with devices so they could work from home. This has continued unabated with enterprise notebook sales notching a 105.5% year-on-year growth in the second quarter of 2020, as per IDC. In Q3, Indian PC shipments rose to 3.4 million units, making it the biggest quarter in the last seven years.

There are multiple reasons for this growth. To begin with, as work, communication, education and even entertainment moved online, it was obvious that a smartphone will struggle to support such varied and extensive usage. And as both adults and children turned to the PC, Indian families were compelled to start investing in multiple devices to support the different requirements.

Interestingly, the demand is not restricted to metros and neither is it solely driven by the IT/ITES sector. According to Amazon, 91% of new customers in the first two days of their festive sales came from Tier 2 and 3 cities, and consumer electronics including laptops ranked high on the list of purchases they made.

As we move forward from this crisis, I feel confident that PC uptake will continue to be bolstered by significantly altered approaches to work, education and entertainment.

Shaping the Future of Work

Over the course of this extraordinary year, the boundaries of an office have expanded like never before – work has moved almost entirely online, meetings replaced with video conferences and collaboration apps like Skype and Zoom saw more than 25 million downloads in March alone. Microsoft Teams recorded a whopping 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day. It is now obvious that working from home can be seamless, secure and as productive, if not more, than working in office. All that is required is a software defined enterprise IT architecture, productivity and collaboration tools and powerful modern personal computing devices that can support extended and varied usage.

Many tech companies have already announced plans to have a large percentage of their workforce move to a permanent remote work model even after the pandemic. The Indian govrenment has announced that several regulations mandated by the Other Service Provider (OSP) guidelines of the Department of Telecom (DoT) would be relaxed permanently, allowing tech companies to continue working remotely. This shift is in no way limited to the technology sector. Large public-sector lenders like State Bank of Indid have announced plans of enabling a work from anywhere model.

This is made possible by the easy availability of personal computing devices that are powerful, secure and feature rich enough to support large remotely working teams. PC manufacturers are already working on devices designed for a new era of hybrid working. They are leveraging Artificial Intelligence to ensure devices can take users through their day and integrating features such as auto noise cancelling microphones and virtual backgrounds. PCs with greater built in security features and enhanced remote manageability are helping enterprises effectively support a distributed workforce.

Delivering Quality Education

Classes on video conferencing and collaboration platforms are a reality today. Microsoft announced that over 1,83,000 tenants across 175 countries are using Teams for online classes. While the digital gap in India is an obstacle for students in remote and rural areas, it has been heartening to see NGOs, private sector organisations, and the government come together to try and ensure access. From providing refurbished tablets and laptops to students to working with state governments to scale up cloud infrastructure for lives-treamed and recorded classes, there have been many remarkable stories of innovation and collaboration to ensure education for all. Corporates and startups have come together for initiatives like PC Paathshala to equip educators and students with the knowhow to enable effective virtual learning and ensure better learning outcomes.

Most importantly, the forced push to online education has made us more aware of the possibilities that such models hold. The education sector in India is marked by inequities and lack of access that technology can address. The right digital framework and affordable, even shared devices equipped with educational and video conferencing applications can help India ensure access to quality education for every child regardless of their location. Earlier this year, the government outlined a plan for providing personal computing devices to at least 40 percent of India’s college and university students and equipping all government schools with information and communication technology capabilities. This is an encouraging and exciting initiative for the country.

Driving Digital Entertainment

Entertainment and gaming too have seen a sea-change over the course of this year. According to a Publicis report, during 1-21 March, gaming witnessed a 41% increase in time spent while entertainment and OTT registered a 34% rise. Consequently, demand for gaming PCs has also gone up. All major brands have indicated a strong demand for lightweight PCs that offer high definition imaging, super-fast processing capabilities, and long battery life. Demand for convertible laptops is also on an upswing, indicative of the fact that Indians need devices flexible enough to support both work and play. The good news is that personal computing platforms are now being engineered to help people get things done that matter the most. Innovators in this sector are now bringing to life a new generation of devices that combine key platform technologies and system optimizations to remove lag, and ensure exceptional battery power, HD displays and lightning fast responsiveness required for a superlative user experience in the new virtual normal.

Future of PC Innovation

The pandemic disrupted life as we knew it, acting as a catalyst for sweeping and long-term transformation. If there is one thing that this year has proved, it is that with the right personal computing device, ensuring access and continuity is not difficult

PC innovation is being driven by demand for better performance, connectivity, security features and power optimisation. Integration of Artificial Intelligence and 5G capabilities will allow PCs to anticipate and adapt to user presence and behaviour patterns and offer immersive experiences at lightning fast speed. Over 50 years of path breaking innovation has resulted in a new generation of personal computing devices that have ensured seamless continuity in the midst of unprecedented disruption and can power the next phase of evolution and progress across work, education and entertainment.

(Prakash Mallya is vice-president and managing director, sales, marketing and communications, at Intel India.)

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