Surge in laptop demand in first quarter of 2020

Intel Corp., the world’s largest chipmaker, saw demand pick up in the first quarter, buoyed by orders for personal computers needed to help people work from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s somewhat logical and intuitive. Where our lives are disrupted and we need to do more and more things from our home, we need to ensure we have the technology at our disposal so things can go on as normal as possible,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Swan said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

“What that has meant is demand for more and more devices, including PCs, for parents to continue to conduct their work and for kids to continue their education.”

Swan’s company dominates the markets for processors that run PCs and the server machines that act as the backbone of corporate networks and cloud-data centers. Demand for more expensive server chips is also higher as companies and service providers improve the systems needed to connect work PCs in people’s homes.

Companies around the world — including Intel — have sent employees home in compliance with government orders aimed at containing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. That shift has provoked a rush to invest in the infrastructure that keeps people working remotely.

Analysts and investors are now looking for signals on whether that’s a short-term lift that will subside as lower economic activity takes a toll on corporate and consumer spending, or whether it is a lasting trend.

Intel is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings on April 23 and is expected to give projections for the current period. In January, before the virus had spread around the world, the company forecast about $19 billion in revenue for the March quarter.

The chipmaker was partly prepared for a surge in demand because it was already expecting a strong quarter and had facilities geared up to produce more components, Swan said.

The Santa Clara, California-based company is now working hard to convince governments that its operations are essential and should be exempt from closures, he said.

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Surge in laptop demand in first quarter of 2020