The head of HP Inc. says the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people think about personal computers in a way that he believes will drive sustained demand, even as the company works through component shortages.
While people once strove to have one PC per household, there’s now a growing need for one PC per person as people work, study and enjoy entertainment more from their homes, explained Chief Executive Enrique Lores at Barron’s Investing in Tech virtual conference Wednesday. The pandemic has “put the PC in the center of this world,” which Lores views as a “permanent change” to consumer mentality.
Employees are slowly returning to offices, but many businesses are adopting a hybrid approach that will mean workers need continued access to PCs at home. That’s putting a greater focus on laptops over desktops, which Lores called “a positive impact on the overall PC business” since people replace notebooks more often than they replace desktops.
Growing demand for connected devices more generally has driven a component shortage that has impacted HP
as well as other companies across industries. “Demand is so strong that we could even ship more if we had more components,” Lores said, but HP has taken steps to manage the situation, such as signing long-term supply agreements to better ensure access to what it needs.
HP also operates a printer business, which has seen mixed impacts during the COVID-19 crisis. People began printing far less from office devices, but home printing picked up as more kids studied from home. Lores expects those trends to “rebalance” once people return to more normal ways of living and working.
The company has seen traction with its efforts to drive subscription-based printing through plans that charge people to print based on a page count and ship them ink automatically when they start running low. The subscriber base for that has doubled since before the pandemic began.
Lores points growth opportunities in other areas as well. The company recently acquired HyperX, a company that makes gaming headsets, keyboards, microphones and more. He says this fits into a trend of increased spending on “peripherals.”
Looking longer term, the company has also made bets in the 3D printing space, an area Lores expects to “disrupt many industries” from automobiles to healthcare. He gave the example of an artificial hip that’s custom built for the dimensions of a patient’s leg. Though companies reduced their investments in capital equipment during the height of the pandemic, he expects them to feel more confident going forward, in a tailwind for the category.