Technology changes rapidly, so the outlook for the computer hardware industry must take into account the future developments that may affect any projections made based on the industry as it exists today. Overall, limited growth is expected in the computer hardware manufacturing industry.
The outlook varies for employment opportunities in the industry. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that overall employment in computer and information systems management and related services will grow rapidly, by about 11 percent, through 2028. On the other hand, employment in computer and electronics engineering and related jobs is projected to show little or no change over the same period.
Firstresearch.com reported that in 2019 the computer manufacturing industry in the United States included about 1,000 companies with combined revenues of approximately $24 billion. The three biggest product categories in the industry are computers, including personal computers, servers, and mainframes; storage devices, including optical and hard disk drives and tape storage; and peripheral equipment, including ATMs, PC peripherals, and point-of-sale devices. Demand will be driven by consumer and business spending. Demand for peripherals for personal devices, however, has been affected by widespread adoption of tablets and personal computers with built-in peripheral features, such as cameras, webcams, and high quality speakers.
The computer hardware industry is boosted by several key factors. The Internet continues to provide faster ways to obtain information, attracting many new computer users. Handheld mobile computing devices are extremely popular; some predict that these handheld devices and tablet computers, such as the iPad, will eventually become the most popular computing platforms. Thus, computer hardware will be needed to develop more robust versions of these devices.
Computer networking, especially wireless networking, is expanding into all areas of computing, creating opportunities for systems analysts. The power of semiconductors, integrated circuits in particular, is important outside of the computer industry. These electronic components give power to smart homes, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems, aircraft navigational systems, as well as electronic consumer goods, such as cellular phones, toys, and refrigerators. Also, computer professionals who can translate techno-lingo into layperson’s terms (for example, technical writers and computer support specialists) will be in high demand.
However, though many opportunities within the industry exist, expect competition for these jobs to stay fierce. A degree in computer science or electrical engineering is a prerequisite for most companies, though non-science degree holders may be considered if they have ample computer training or practical experience along with various computer courses. Management opportunities favor those with advanced degrees in computer science, computer engineering, management information systems (MIS), or an MBA. Certification is also becoming more important in this industry, as employers seek to hire the best-educated and most qualified candidates from a growing pool of applicants. Along with having strong programming and analytical skills, successful industry workers should be excellent communicators and quick thinkers. They should also have good business sense.
In the past, industry giants were located only in California’s Silicon Valley or the San Francisco Bay area. Up-and-coming computer hardware companies are now established throughout the United States in states such as Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Idaho. Major computer hardware companies include Apple, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Intel, and Dell.
Trends suggest that outsourcing product development and manufacturing to companies overseas and the consolidation of companies within the computer hardware industry may impact future employment opportunities in the United States. Some companies are keeping top-level design jobs and the marketing and distribution segment of the industry in the United States, while taking advantage of cheaper labor available in China or the Philippines by sending production and basic design work to those countries at a loss of many U.S.-based jobs. Though the computer hardware industry is not immune to economic volatility or changes in profit margins, qualified computer workers with advanced education and certification will always be needed.
The 2020 coronavirus outbreak created a shortage in both supply and demand for the computer hardware industry, leading to its worst sales quarter in seven years ending in March 2020, near the beginning of the pandemic. Unlike the various pieces of digital software hosted by a piece of hardware, the distribution of computers themselves slowed due to social-distancing mandates and their effects on manufacturing and distribution. With the onset of the next financial quarter, though, PC sales bounced back (up 53% during the week of April 18, having fallen by 10% in the first quarter). As quarantine measures and remote-working protocols commenced, more and more people found themselves needing to work or be entertained in their own homes. As the industry adjusted to a slower supply chain, it worked hard to meet demand and minimize delays.
The global computer manufacturing industry was expected to experience nearly 20 percent decline in revenue in 2020 due to the measures required to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the research group IBISWorld. Post pandemic, the manufacturing industry will start to rebound. "While substantially fewer computers will be manufactured in the United States, the largest manufacturers will continue to grow their global presence as demand for electronics increases, particularly in emerging and frontier markets." Post pandemic, ResearchAndMarkets.com forecasts that the global computer hardware industry will grow at a compound annual rate of 5 percent from 2021 through 2023.