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Forget toilet paper. Remote working means laptop supplies are running low, too

The coronavirus is forcing an increasing number of workers to swap the company office for a home office, a situation that apparently threatens to leave the shelves of PC stores in a similar state as those for toilet paper. Bare.

In fact, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week, it’s already happening, with some shoppers turning up at their  local computer store to buy a laptop only to find sold-out stickers on the shelves.

The virus, formally known as COVID-19, has impacted the supply of laptops in several ways. First, factories in China, where most of the world’s laptops are made, suffered serious disruption earlier in the year as the nation grappled to contain the virus at the start of the outbreak. And second, COVID-19 has prompted numerous companies around the world to ask office staff to work from home, with some firms having to purchase additional laptops to make it possible.

And before all that, Intel, which supplies microchips for the majority of the world’s laptops, had already been experiencing a shortage of the component, putting further pressure on the market. The company said in January 2020 that it was taking a “maniacal” approach to fixing its ongoing supply issues, though that was before COVID-19 began to really take hold.

This week’s Journal report highlights several U.S. stores where laptops are sold out or nearly sold out, while a report in the Financial Times (FT) last week noted how some companies in Europe have started stockpiling the best laptops ahead of asking employees to work remotely. Computer resellers told the FT they’ve seen an increase in orders from firms both large and small, with one supplier in Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the virus, revealing there had been an astonishing 20-fold increase in demand after the government locked down the nation on March 10.

Reports out of the U.K. also point to a surge in demand. Supply chains there have held up reasonably well so far, though that could change if the current situation continues, an industry insider said.

The FT said the supply chain issues affecting the laptop market should begin to ease by the end of March with production in China, which is reporting fewer infections daily, expected to return to around 80 per cent of what it was before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the world of tech, most major companies have been asking employees to work from home, among them Apple, Google, Twitter, and Amazon.

If you’re a work-at-home newbie and need some help setting up your home office, Digital Trends has created a guide offering a bunch of useful tips. And be sure to check out this piece, too, on how to stay sane while working from home.

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Trevor Mogg
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