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Schools Facing Massive Shortfall Of Laptops: Report

The shortage in the U.S. is reportedly affecting all three of the largest PC makers, impacting many solution providers focused on K-12 customers.

U.S. school districts are short nearly 5 million laptops as the school year begins with widespread remote learning, as orders face monthslong delays, the Associated Press reported.

Multiple solution providers told CRN that they are seeing shortages and order delays for laptops--especially for Chromebooks, the affordably priced, student-friendly laptops that have long been the go-to computing device in K-12 education.

“We are definitely seeing delays across all makes and models of Chromebooks with expected shipping dates of 60 to 90 days, or more,” one solution provider executive, who asked to not be identified, told CRN. “Back in March, we contacted our K-12 clients and advised them that COVID-19 was disrupting the supply chain and we did not expect availability to stabilize or improve before the start of the 20-21 school year.”

Another solution provider executive reported facing similar issues, telling CRN that “Chromebooks and low-end (i.e. consumer) laptops are completely sold out.”

“The better laptops (generally Windows 10 Pro) are in decent supply,” the executive noted.

Demand for Chromebooks has been outstripping supply in the U.S. since the COVID-19 crisis arrived in March. But the situation has been worsened by factors including U.S. government sanctions over accusations of human rights violations at a Hefei Bitland manufacturing facility in China, the Associated Press reported. The sanctions by the Trump Administration on July 20 have caused Lenovo, a major producer of Chromebooks, to halt production at the Bitland factory, according to the report.

One executive at a solution provider focused on K-12 customers, who asked to not be named, told CRN they had numerous Chromebook orders produced at the Bitland facility that have been impacted.

“We had a bunch of orders that were already created from Bitland and were in customs ready to ship. Because of the ruling from the government, all of those orders had to be cancelled,” the executive said. “That’s been a big nightmare for us.”

The executive said their company had placed orders early to try to avoid this type of situation--and had expected that even with the high Chromebook demand, about 95 percent of orders should’ve been ready for the return to school. Instead, only about 60 to 65 percent of the solution provider’s orders are ready in time for the school season.

Some customers have cancelled orders after connecting with larger providers that had managed to secure supply of Chromebooks, the executive said. That’s led to lost revenue, though the solution provider is still doing OK because business this year has been up overall, the executive said.

“The most frustrating thing for us is our clients not getting their [Chromebooks] on time,” the executive said. “We get 25 emails a day from clients, asking for ETAs, but we have nothing from the manufacturers to pass along.”

The Associated Press reported that the three largest PC makers--Lenovo, HP Inc. and Dell--have informed U.S. school districts that there is currently a shortfall of nearly 5 million laptops.

Lenovo declined to comment when reached by CRN. In a statement, Dell said, “We have seen increased customer interest in the education industry as they shift to virtual learning, which has led to longer lead times. We are currently utilizing our supply chain leadership and expertise to fulfill orders as efficiently as possible.”

HP, meanwhile, said in a statement that “the role of the PC has never been more essential, and we are continuing to leverage our global supply chain to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

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