A lot of old tech ideas are back in fashion thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks back, Intel announced that — thanks to the immediate need for people to work from home, and in many cases, learn from home — it saw a sudden spurt in the sales of laptops. 1
Logitech, the company that makes everything from headphones to stream cams and microphones, is selling out of its hardware. And it reported one of their best quarters. They reported that sales for video collaboration were up 62%. Webcam sales were up 32%, and that whole group brought in $709.2 million. Damn. (( Logitech Earnings Report. PDF)) Seriously, I have been trying to get a Blue mic for almost a month, and it is still sold out. The same goes for their webcam attachment that goes with the Apple XDR Display. Good for them — the company makes good products (I use their keyboard and mice), plus CEO Bracken Darrell is one hell of a nice guy.
Today, I saw a report from Leichtman Research Group pointing out that the largest cable and telephone providers in the U.S. added 1.165 million net additional broadband Internet subscribers in Q1 2020, a big jump from 955,000 subscribers they added in Q1 2019. “With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there were more quarterly net broadband additions in Q1 2020 than in any quarter in five years,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. That was the best quarter of net additions for the cable companies in thirteen years. Cable companies added 1.23 million net new adds. Top phone companies lost 65,440 connections. Ouch!
It is not surprising that people have gone back to fixed-line broadband during this time — with multiple people per household working from home in one way or another, we all need more bandwidth. And I suppose our LTE connections aren’t enough when making Zoom calls every day — the bills for mobile broadband are going to add up fast. I am blessed that I live in a building that is connected to the Internet via a fiber-optic network. Even on bad days, my bandwidth drops to about 600 Mbps versus a usual 900 Mbps or higher. And yes, I have switched to the old fashioned wired connection. It is better for Zoom calls.
Now, you could read all this and say, “Well, this is clearly a reaction to the pandemic.” And it is. But it is also likely to extend far beyond it. The behaviors we are learning today — work from home, telemedicine, communicating more via video — they are not going to vanish suddenly. As my friend Pip Coburn says, “Video is now INTERNALIZED into a gazillion people’s blood. Pretending otherwise would be dangerous.” (More on that in a separate piece.) This means that opportunities abound. Now is a time for building better video experiences and better hardware, as well as for selling more bandwidth to power those experiences.
Related: The Inevitable has happened.
May 13, 2020, San Francisco