Suddenly, after years of decline, personal computers are hot again. Sales are up and there are shortages of some models.
It may not last. Indeed the full year could still see an overall decline in sales. Yet for now, the PC has regained relevance.
After playing second fiddle to the phone, the focus is back on the PC. That mainly means laptops.
The move to working from home has seen an explosion in demand for hardware with a decent size screen and a proper keyboard.
It’s not just office workers setting up shop on the kitchen table, it’s also students logging on to remote lessons and many others turning to digital entertainment to fill the hole left when you can’t go out so much.
HP in a good place today
HP is in a good place to exploit the exploding demand. It is, after all, New Zealand’s best selling PC brand by a fair clip. It is the leader in many countries around the world and even where it doesn’t dominate, it is an important player.
Apple’s computer strategy may not be as laser focused today as it has been in recent years, but it focuses on a handful of product lines. Microsoft does something similar with its Surface hardware.
In contrast, HP takes the opposite approach. It throws a lot of ideas against the wall knowing full well that some will stick.
This week’s announcements in the US follow that approach. The company has focused on two distinct, non-mainstream PC sectors. At one extreme it has gone big with new Omen gaming PCs. At the other there are enterprise-focused Chromebooks.
The Omen announcements are grunty machines ideal for people who need lockdown entertainment. There is a large screen 27-inch gaming monitor with 165Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time.
The new Omen computers are built around high performance Intel i9 and AMD Ryzen 9 CPUs. They use Nvidia RTX 2080 or AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics cards. Also in the mix are a fancy new case design, Cooler Master cooling components and HyperX high-speed Dram along with WD Black SSDs.
A good Omen
Gaming PCs have been a success story for HP. They are one of the few PC categories to experience growth and because the products tend to be premium throughout, margins are healthy. With people spending even more time at home, they are likely to continue selling well.
We don’t see them so much in New Zealand, but elsewhere in the world Chromebooks are very popular in education. HP makes plenty of affordable low-end Chromebooks to address this market. Now it is parlaying some of that expertise to meet a corporate need for low-cost cloud-based hardware.
The revived Enterprise 14 G6 Chromebook won’t win any prizes for performance. It doesn’t have to. It is as a solid cloud-based laptop with a 14-inch display. There are more swept up Chromebooks and one model comes in the 2-in-1 format.
There’s also a mobile thin client, which is, in effect, a laptop for people who use a virtual desktop, another trend which is more prevalent overseas than in New Zealand.
Elsewhere HP has a new laser printer for home users. Its sales pitch is that it comes with seven times as much toner as earlier laser printers.