June 2020

Welcome to this month's IT Market Alert from KnowledgeBus. This alert is designed to deliver some key market knowledge viewed during May 2020 that should help you get more from your IT procurement going forwards.


Executive Summary

  • Smartphone shipments reach record lows
  • PC sales set for annual decline
  • Chromebooks account for a quarter of all notebook sales


The largest number of price increases happened by May 19th, with 40,196.

Jump to Monthly Stats

Things are still looking bad for the IT sector, with smartphone and tablet shipments down and printer sales also on the ropes. PC sales overall are looking grim this year according to analysts. On the upside, CONTEXT Research noted that the European IT channel had bounced back into revenue growth, with a four-week rolling average reaching 3.4% YoY growth for the four weeks ending May 10, compared to a 1.2% drop the week before. Even this bright spot is isolated, though; UK revenues have been affected by a lack of big deals, it said, and the analyst still predicted a 4.1% Q2 revenue shrinkage for the IT channel across Europe.

Consumer confidence was up in the US as the economy sputtered to life, rising to 86.6 in May from 85.7 in April. It isn't often that political developments make this report, but this one is relevant: tensions in Hong Kong continue to mount as US officials testified that its autonomy from China is shrinking. That could threaten the US's special trading status with the country. they said. UK support for Hong Kong has also angered China. Oh, and Japan is now officially in recession.


Exchange Rate

The euro began the month at 1,0969 against the US dollar but dipped quickly to hit 1.084 on May 7. It stayed in that valley until May 17, when it rose to 1.0963 by May 21 before dipping slightly and rallying to a monthly high of 1.104 on May 29.

Things looked much the same for the euro against the pound. It began the month on a Friday at 0.8752, before rallying to 0.8781 on the Monday and then dipping to 0.8726 on the following day, May 5. It stayed in that territory for the week, but then begin an extended rally on May 11, plateauing at 0.8933 on May 16. It ranged there for another week, dipping slightly to 0.8910 on May 26 and then spiking to a high at 0.9003 on May 29.

British Pound (GBP) per 1 Euro (EUR)

GDP was down 3.8% in the euro zone and 3.3% in the EU quarter-on-quarter during Q1, with employment down 0.2% in both regions, according to Eurostat. These were the sharpest declines since the time series began in 1995, it said. The volume of retail trade also dropped 11.2% in the euro area (10.4% in the EU) between March and February, caused by the COVID-19 containment measures.

US Dollar (USD) per 1 Euro (EUR)

Euro (EUR) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

US Dollar (USD) per 1 British Pound (GBP)

Early 'flash' PMI data for May revealed a marked easing in the rate of decline of output across the US, euro zone, Japan and the UK, according to IHS, although the contraction still remained at record levels. UK output fell the most, followed by Japan and then the euro zone.

Price Changes and News Through May 2020


Phones and Tablets

It was bad news for the smartphone market, which is still reeling from the pandemic: Yearly production will drop 1.24bn units, according to TrendForce, representing an 11.3% decrease. Q2 saw a 16.5% production drop, making it the worst quarter on record.

That's just production. Downstream, things looked worse, with Q1 shipments plummeting 16.8% to 274.4m units from 329.9m the year prior, according to IHS. Expect global shipments down 13.1% from 1.39bn units in 2019 to 1.2bn units this year, it warned.

IDC noted an 18.8% YoY drop in Q1 smartphone shipments in Western Europe, calling this quarter "the calm before the storm".

Apple might be launching its next iPhones in October rather than the normal September date, but production is likely to kick off in Q3, said sources.

AMOLED phones will reach 35.6% of market share, TrendForce predicted.

EMEA tablet sales dropped 9.6% YoY to 8.8m in Q1 said IDC, although things were a little brighter in Western Europe, dipping just 5.7% YoY. Samsung led the EMEA market, with market share up to 24.5% in Q1 2020, on sales down 2.3%. Apple (23.8% share on sales down 9.3%) and Huawei (12.3% share on sales down 4.8%) followed up in second and third place. Lenovo and Microsoft bucked the sales trend, growing their tablet revenues 4.2% and a whopping 19.6% respectively.

Traditional PCs

Sales of notebooks spiked 5% for HP, it revealed in its Q3 results, but it saw a 23% fall in desktop sales. Lenovo saw an overall drop in company-wide profits during its fourth quarter (January to March), but less than expected. It expects YoY revenue growth for PCs and smart devices, driven by the expansion in home working.

Analysts aren't sure this growth in PC sales is sustainable for this calendar year. Calendar Q2 demand for PCs driven by the pandemic may have driven short-term sales in the EMEA region but it won't last, warned IDC. It expected sales of traditional PCs there to reach 68.3m in 2020, declining 6.3%. Gartner anticipated a 10% decline in global PC shipments.

Chromebooks are enjoying the rise in emergency work-from-home purchases, though. Shipments will reach a record 11.6m units in Q2, according to TrendForce, accounting for an an astonishing 25% of quarterly sales.

Premium Ultramobiles & Wearables

Global wearable device shipments grew 29.7% YoY in Q1 2020 to 72.6 million units, IDC said. Wristbands grew 16.2% but the star of the show was the hearables category. Fancy headphones grew 68.3% to capture a 54.9% market share, and seemed largely pandemic-proof. Smartwatch shipments dipped, in part because of their reliance on some of the same components as PCs, which suffered supply chain problems. Apple remained the top wearables company with a 29.3% share and 21.2m units. Beats and Airpods sales shipments offset dipping Apple Watch numbers.

Global sales of premium ultramobiles will drop 5.8% from 69.59m in 2019 to 65.52m in 2020, Gartner predicted.

Processors, MEMs, Semiconductors

Global semiconductor sales fell 1.2% month-on-month in April, said the Semiconductor Industry Association.

Apple may be slated to launch its own ARM-based notebook processor architecture at some point, but for now it appears to have an exclusive deal for certain Intel 28nm Ice Lake mobile processors.


DRAMeXchange predicted higher DRAM demand driven by new video cards from NVIDIA and arch-rival AMD, along with new consoles from Microsoft and Sony. Graphics DRAM is a rarefied market with ultra-high performance parameters.

In the broader DRAM market, the analyst company noted an inversion from falling prices and rising shipments to the opposite: rising prices and lower shipments. That's due to successful inventory reductions. The average sales price rose 0.5% in Q1 2020, but logistics problems led to a 4.6% decrease in QoQ revenue.


Sales of monitors through distributors in Western Europe grew by 35% YoY in March, according to CONTEXT. That's a record. It contributed to an 18% increase for Q1. The surge was driven by business customers stocking up in anticipation of a pandemic-driven supply crunch, compounded by the push to work from home.

According to Omdia, large-format flat panel displays availability will tighten significantly in 2021 after capacity grew almost 50% from 225m square meters per year in 2013 to 335m in 2020. COVID-19 is impacting demand and creating business uncertainty, prompting South Korean suppliers to accelerate plants to exit the market. That will wipe out 57m square meters of capacity between 2019 and 2021, putting the squeeze on supplies.

Expect video wall LED market revenues to bump 3.7% YoY in 2020, TrendForce said. It'll reach 1.946bn, still short of the pre-pandemic $2.261m forecast.


Worldwide hardcopy peripheral shipments fell 7.5% YoY to 21.1m units in Q1 2020 due to supply chain disruption from the pandemic. Colour laser 21-30ppm MFPs were a bright spot though, growing 3% to 793,000 units. In Western Europe, Q1 MFP and printer shipments fell 6.9% YoY to 4.33m units. UK shipments fell 11.4% overall, with laser shipments plummeting by a fifth.

HP's Q3 printer sales were covered in red ink. It saw a 19% YoY dip in worldwide sales, and according to IDC a 17.4% drop in shipments, although it still topped the list in terms of market share at 38%. Canon and Epson tied second with 20% market share each and relatively flat YoY shipment numbers, followed by Brother, which spiked shipments 9.6%.


Ink tank shipments grew 5.5% to 3.7m, IDC said.

Network Products

Wi-Fi 6 developments continue apace, with Qualcomm announcing its first chips for WiFi 6E, covering both phones and routers. This version of the latest Wi-Fi standard opens up 6GHz frequencies. Industry sources told DigiTimes that demand for networking chips would stay strong in the second half of the year, triggered by rising demands for data communication during the pandemic.

Ericsson expects more 5G subscriptions by 2025 as a result of the pandemic, hitting 2.8bn rather than the prior 2.6bn forecast.


Monthly Stats

New products ranged between 27 and 52 for the first week of May, then falling to low single figures before spiking to 101 on May 12. They just surpassed that on May 21 to reach a 201 monthly high, before settling again, not getting above 80 for the rest of the month.

Price increases spiked to 30,661 on May 5 before falling to their monthly low of 12,704 three days later. Then they rose steadily to hit a monthly high of 40,196 on May 19. They surged again to 30,006 on May 22, finishing at 19,470 on May 29. Prices down hit their monthly low of 5,230 on May 14 and their high of 32,017 on May 25. HP increased and decreased prices the most during the month.

Stock up saw a brief plateau in an otherwise low-key first three weeks of May on May 8 when it hit 8,567. It made up for lost time in the remainder of the month, spiking to a high of 17,443 on May 22 with another resurgence to 11,920 on May 27. It finished out the month at 4,348. Stock down followed a similar trend but without the early plateau, peaking to 22,785 on May 25 in what was otherwise an unremarkable month.

New Products May 2020

Prices and Stock Movements May 2020