How the Covid-19 led to a chip shortage and a work-from-home global population

Rafael Perez Medina
July 12, 2022

Total Laptop market: 85020 million units in 2022

    The digitalization of our daily routines has created a need for portable equipment for our activities. Laptops and notebooks are no exception: our access to banks, entertainment channels, information sites, creation and communication tools are increasingly used on a personal level and it is becoming more common for each person to have one. This demand has been driven and accelerated exponentially by the Wuhan virus pandemic. Legal, logistical and health safety restrictions were imposed across the board with important consequences for consumers. First, we find that companies, corporations and governments shifted their offices to remote work (1), creating a need for versatile and comfortable equipment to work from home (2).

This change puts pressure on companies and governmental entities to expand their IT infrastructure in search of options more suited to their processing needs and workloads, leading different actors involved in the lifecycle of this equipment to rethink solutions. On the one hand we find the expansion of digital services (such as BPOs, KPOs, ITES and Web Services) to meet this demand for laptops with increasing workloads.

On top of this we find pressures on the supply and distribution chains involved in producing new ICT equipment as a consequence of the legal restrictions imposed by the virus. Many factories producing the chips needed for any ICT equipment were temporarily closed (3), creating a shortage of these parts.

Companies and government agencies are looking for different solutions to mitigate this problem: they need equipment to adapt to the new global landscape. On the one hand, OEMs, ODMs and EMSs have adopted new solutions to meet this demand. Many OEMs (Apple, Lenovo, Dell, HP) have added refurb products to attack or mitigate the consequences of the pandemic (4); an important example is Microsoft who has launched its MAR (Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher) license to certify third parties in the process of refurbishing a laptop. End consumers have started to adopt solutions as well: from PaS and equipment leasing to the purchase of refurbished equipment.

    Laptops and Notebooks have become the most in-demand devices in this pandemic period for different reasons. The end consumer needs this portability and processing-intensive work is limited to some sectors and industries. It is necessary to take into account that most of the users of these devices use them to send emails, create MS Word/Excel documents and search the web for information. Also the cost is lower than a PC (since you don't have to buy a monitor, keyboard or mouse).

Additionally, companies are looking for solutions that are very cost sensitive (since the pandemic also affects their productivity) making expanding businesses (such as BPOs and KPOs) less likely to change or expand their ICT parks with new equipment, opting more and more for refurbished equipment. The decision to take this path also responds to the various initiatives now offered by OEMs.

Finally, there has been a change in ITAD practices around the world and particularly in Europe. The disruption of supply and production chains, new geopolitical situations and institutional (and legal) changes towards more sustainable practices have caused companies to review their EOL practices for ICT equipment.


(1) Telework in the EU before and after the COVID-19: where we were,

where we head to, Science for Policies, EU Commission, 2021.

(2)The future of work after COVID-19, McKinsey Global Institute, Report, Febrero 18, 2021.

(3) Macrotrends Affecting IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) and Recycling in 2022, Sims Lifecycle Services, Marzo 22, 2022.

(4) Lenovo Outlet: New & Refurbished Laptop