Schools might not have enough laptops for students this fall

Even older laptops might be problematic.

Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It’s no secret that laptops have been hot commodities for students during the pandemic, but that might just lead to a crisis as school resumes. Axios has found evidence of acute laptop shortages going into the back-to-school season, particularly for Chromebooks. Acer America president Gregg Prendergast warned that his company was “not even close” to supply enough of the Chrome OS laptops to support virtual classrooms. It wasn’t likely to taper off, either, as Acer just received government requests for “hundreds of thousands” of devices in California and Nevada.

NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker also warned that laptop sales have been 20 to 40 percent higher “every single week,” while a cursory check of Best Buy’s site showed that 24 out of 28 low-cost (under $400) Chromebooks were sold out.

A number of factors have contributed to the shortfall. Prendergast warned of supply chain issues ranging from individual parts to shipping — Acer is resorting to air freight to bring laptops quickly to the US. And while schools have existing machines to rely on, many of those systems have to be replaced due to heavy use.

The shortages could make it difficult for some students to start classes on time. It could also prove costly for school districts and parents that might have to buy more expensive portables to avoid a delay. There’s no easy solution, and it might not get better until either PC makers catch up or it’s safe for students tor return in person.