© dundermifflinpaper.com

Times must be hard for the paper salespeople of Dunder Mifflin right now.

The fictional Office (Wernham Hogg in the original UK version) would be an empty place, where the phones no longer ring with orders for a dozen reams of 20lb copy paper.

I thought of them as I struggled to change the ink cartridge on my home printer today and fondly remembered tackling the paper jams and toner fade-outs on our old office lasers.

There was also a Jefferies research report on Wednesday: “Working from home (WFH) has materially reduced the demand for office paper as employees print less at home. Uncoated fine paper (UFP) demand declines of 30-40 per cent are expected by the market in 2Q.”

Tech hardware is obviously topsy-turvy as well. Personal printers and laptops are selling well in contrast to office machines and desktop PCs. But that doesn’t mean suppliers can instantly rebalance. A Morgan Stanley report last month on Covid-19 megatrends included the “Death of Paper” and pointed out the top 10 print vendors generated at least 50 per cent of hardware sales from office customers, with most at over 70 per cent. At home, users are growing more accustomed to reading off tablets and monitors and digitisation of documents is growing, with the likes of DocuSign and Adobe benefiting.

Morgan Stanley expects printing revenue declines of around 16 per cent for HP and Xerox this year, but says the long-term viability of the current print market structure is in doubt and consolidation may be needed (Xerox abandoned its bid to merge with HP in March due to the pandemic).

Rebalancing is also hampered by supply constraints. Value-added resellers have told Stifel analysts that supplies are tight for notebook PCs and webcams, with one finding “70,000 back-ordered webcams at one of his distributors, while another cited ‘months and months’ of delays from the likes of HP and Lenovo for basic at-home IT equipment”.

The Gartner and IDC research firms reported on Thursday 2.8 and 11.2 per cent growth respectively in second-quarter global PC shipments, with both crediting the surge to laptop spending and work-from-home trends. They cautioned as well that the uptick was driven by “short-term business needs” and shrinking budgets and a recession would probably turn things sour. My guess is you wouldn’t need a printout to be able to see that.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Sony’s Epic investment
Sony has paid $250m for a 1.4 per cent stake in the company behind the Fortnite online game, but seems more interested in its streaming of live events than the fighting. “We share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music,” said Epic’s chief executive. Lex says new game visuals made in collaboration with Epic’s Unreal Engine also show great potential.

2. More Wirecard weirdness
In our latest revelations on the scandal surrounding the insolvent German payments group, read all about the secret double life of its missing chief operating officer Jan Marsalek, which took him from Munich boardrooms to the Libyan civil war.

3. Hard for Intel to process
How did the world’s leading chipmaker get overtaken by the upstart Nvidia, which passed it in market value on Thursday? Richard Waters’ latest column looks at how it has fallen behind in manufacturing prowess and enabling the AI revolution.

4. I name this Uber . . .
Uber has a new boat service — London’s Thames Clippers commuter service is to be rebranded Uber Boat and will be bookable through its app. Meanwhile, Dave Lee in San Francisco has been analysing its decision to buy Postmates for $2.65bn. It was attracted to Postmates’ “delivery-as-a-service” platform as the company pushes to turn Uber Eats into Uber “everything” and take on Amazon.

5. TikTok may change its hq and structure
TikTok has confirmed it is considering changes to its corporate structure in response to the Trump administration’s concerns about its access to American users’ data. The Wall Street Journal had reported the ByteDance-owned company was mulling setting up a headquarters outside its native China, and establishing an independent board.

Tech tools — Smart helmets

This Augmented Reality helmet gives an audible and visible signal to the wearer when someone with a raised body temperature comes into range. Measuring via infrared thermal imaging, it can scan crowds or queues at a rate of up to 200 people a minute and pick out anyone whose temperature is above the norm, writes Jonathan Margolis, who also looks at digi-thermometers in these How to Spend It reviews.

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