Ways COVID-19 Will Change the Tech Industry

The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding, but it’s already clear that the outbreak will spark major changes in the technology industry, which has already been called on in a big way to preserve social community and workplace collaboration as billions of people are forced to stay home under some variety of lockdown.

Digitization for Even the Last Holdouts

Even more of daily life will take place online as businesses and consumers increasingly adopt online banking, video conferencing, remote education, video calls, ecommerce and more. Folks who have avoided online services will shed their skepticism as the virus underscores how crucial the web is during disruptions of in-person interactions. Households without the internet (believe it or not, there are millions of these) will cave and get service. And those who are already digitally savvy will double down on their online habits.

Consumers will upgrade internet speeds and even consider backup plans, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot from a cellular carrier. Many people now trying to work from home (with their children home, too) are experiencing bogged-down speeds. The answer will be a faster plan and new wireless equipment from internet providers such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Charter.

More Hardware Sales (and Furniture, Too)

Computers, printers and other consumer IT gear will see a prolonged spike in interest. There was a race to buy laptops and monitors for home offices as the coronavirus hit, but this trend has long legs. In some cases, these are must-have purchases for people stuck working from home. Many will want to prepare their home office for both future disruptions and for a future in which remote work is more common. Desks, office chairs and speakers will do well, too. That’s good news for Ikea and its ilk.

A Setback for 5G

The shift to next-generation 5G networks in cities and towns across the U.S. will be delayed. Network operators that buy 5G gear will be retrenching and dealing with reduced demand. Meanwhile, the supply chain of telecom gear, largely based in China, has been disrupted. Equipment vendors such as Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia will see much lower sales than were projected just months ago.The same goes for 5G’s debut in factories, warehouses and shipping ports. This is a big blow for businesses that were poised to boost productivity via upgrades to a company’s wireless network.

Smartphones Will Tread Water

5G smartphones from Apple and others will be delayed. Global shipments plunged a record 38% in Feb. versus last year, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics. Closed U.S. retail outlets hurt, since a large portion of sales take place at stores. Plus, consumers grappling with a rapid economic downturn will be less willing to buy a pricey new model unless they must.