Right now, PC enthusiasts and consumers struggling to put together a home office are encountering a key obstacle when it comes to beefing up their domestic computing power: toilet paper (and other essentials).
While some vendors, including PC makers, have products available for wanting customers, it's hard to make that happen with Amazon, a key online retailer, only shipping out products that are considered essential, like toilet paper. In the wake of the coronavirus (opens in new tab)outbreak, Amazon is currently on an essentials-first policy (opens in new tab), that puts delivery of products related to basic daily needs over the likes of consumer electronics. This presents a problem for the large section of the workforce currently forced to work from home (opens in new tab), as well as the brands looking to supply them with products.
For instance, while Nvidia recently reported increased demand (opens in new tab) for laptops (opens in new tab), desktops (opens in new tab)and workstations, customers looking to purchase anything from Amazon that the site doesn't list as essential are seeing delivery dates of April 21.
Complicating matters is the fact that Amazon has yet to publicly list what it considers essential, leaving customers to resort to trial-and-error while browsing for potential purchases. For instance, as of this writing I was able to find laptops (opens in new tab) and even RTX GPUs (opens in new tab) that would allegedly arrive as early as April 4, but Amazon’s “best seller” (opens in new tab)for standing computer microphones (opens in new tab) wouldn’t get to me until April 22.
Despite companies like Microsoft claiming that supply chains (opens in new tab)are “getting back on rails,” today we're still seeing high demand and possible supply but low shipping capacity.
Even outside of Amazon, urgent medical equipment demand is sending the price for chartered aircraft skyrocketing, making any kind of shipment-by-air costly, as Bloomberg (opens in new tab) reported.
“Chartered prices have been pushed up from less than $300,000 four to six weeks back to $600,000 to $800,000 in the last few days,” chairman and founder of logistics company Pacific Air (HK) Ltd. Anthony Lau told the outlet Friday. “The price is changing by the hour. We have never, ever experienced this.”
Normally, PC parts manufacturers would simply book cargo space on passenger planes, but the collapse in passenger demand is now encouraging airlines to shift many passenger planes to chartered cargo flights, reducing availability for this less costly alternative. As companies like American Airlines and Korean Air Lines Co. make this transition, cargo rates have increase by over 10%, according to Bloomberg.
Marine transportation, meanwhile, can extend shipments by 1-2 months, Digitimes (opens in new tab) said.
To increase shipment of stock already sitting in its warehouses, Amazon recently announced plans to hire (opens in new tab) 100,000 new warehouse and delivery workers. However, Amazon fulfillment centers are particularly prone to COVID-19 spread due to their high volume of workers, as shown by a New York delivery station briefly shutting down (opens in new tab) last week after an employee tested positive for the virus. More workers could increase risk.
Additionally, PC components like graphics cards (opens in new tab) and power supplies (opens in new tab) could soon see a shift to non-essential status as existing stock sells out, with The New York Times (opens in new tab) reporting that Amazon is no longer accepting certain items, including, consumer electronics in their warehouses.
While global shipping issues are due to impact the whole market, some stores have taken efforts to negate stock shortages. New Jersey-based vendor Maingear told Tom’s Hardware that “We anticipated the demand, so we have plenty of stock of all the components for our systems. So we have not had an impact on our supply chain or delivering systems quickly to our customers.”
Enthusiast or not, alternatives to Amazon (opens in new tab), like Newegg and more boutique suppliers, might be the best bet for getting hardware for now.