The Pandemic Made Your PC Better. Here’s How.


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(Note: This story originally appeared in my Release Notes newsletter. Get all the good stuff first by signing up. Release Notes drops each Tuesday morning.)

In March 2020, when companies all over the United States – indeed, around the world – closed their offices and asked those who could to work from home, those employees suddenly had to rely on PC features many of them had seldom used. A component like a camera, often an afterthought for workers who didn’t travel much, became a lifeline.

“When the pandemic was starting, no one was talking about cameras on a PC,” said Dilip Bhatia, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Lenovo. “All of a sudden we saw cameras pop up immediately. ‘Do I have a camera? Does a PC have one?’”

Features once incidental became critical as everyone became a mobile worker. And the makers of personal computers had to scramble to beef up parts such as cameras and microphones, and put other planned features on hold. 

The PC you buy today is different from what you might have picked up a year ago, and certainly it’s different from what it might have been, had the coronavirus pandemic not drastically changed the way people work, learn, stay in touch with loved ones and entertain themselves. 

Personal computers also have been in high demand, with over 300 million sold in 2020, according to IDC, compared to almost 268 million in 2019. Most analysts expect strong sales to continue. 

“The PC has been like a secondary device for the regular consumers in their daily lives and not that many consumers used PCs every day,” said Mikako Kitagawa, director analyst at Gartner.. “But the pandemic changed that user behavior a lot..”

I spoke with executives from Dell, HP and Lenovo about how they responded to pandemic-inspired needs in their consumer PCs. I also reached out to Apple, but they did not make anyone available. 

But in all instances, it’s safe to say that cameras, audio systems, displays and services became the focus of upgrades for many products for all these…