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We’re still waiting for the laptop’s big year

We’re still waiting for the laptop’s big year

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Companies have made huge promises about laptops, but the products still haven’t materialized

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The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold stands on a table in book mode.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

After a long, long month of laptop releases, Computex 2022 is finally over. In some ways, it’s the Computex that wasn’t.

The early part of this year was an exciting time to be a laptop reporter. Every company and its mother announced that big ideas were on the way. Wacky products abounded, from monitors to phones. LG Display (which supplied the 13.3-inch panel for Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold) showed off a 17-inch foldable OLED screen. We saw RGB, OLEDs, and haptics galore. Chipmakers promised architectural innovations and performance gains. We were told that these were all coming soon.

At the end of May was Computex, the biggest laptop-specific show of the year. (Well, it really was all of May — since many global attendees couldn’t get to Taiwan, most companies just did their own thing and dumped their releases whenever, but that’s another story. I’m still recovering from this month of nonstop announcements; please don’t text me.) This would’ve been the perfect time for some of these innovative releases to be, you know, released — or get a release date.

But we didn’t get them at Computex 2022. The show was, in fact, aggressively unexciting. We got a heck of a lot of chip bumps. We got some higher refresh rate displays. We got an HP Spectre x360 with rounder corners. (To be clear, I am personally very excited about the rounder corners, but I may be the only person on the planet in this boat.)

Don’t get me wrong: incremental upgrades, both to internal specs and external elements, are important. They will make a difference in people’s lives. Companies do not need to reinvent the wheel with every single laptop they release. But it is still worth noting that a number of devices that truly seem poised to expand or redefine their categories are not yet here (or if they are, I cannot find them listed for sale).

The HP Elite Dragonfly G3 on a wooden table with a bookshelf in the background, open, angled slightly to the left. The screen displays The Verge homepage.
Here’s the Elite Dragonfly G3, which you cannot buy yet.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The following are some highly anticipated products announced earlier this year that have still not made it to my desk:

It’s not all bad news. Some of the most anticipated devices of 2022 have been released on schedule, including a number of products on the gaming side like Asus’ ROG Flow Z13. And, of course, companies deviate from plans all the time. But I did gut check my impression with Gartner research vice president Stephen Kleynhans, and it does appear to be true: across the board, we are seeing delays in PC shipments, which are in turn impacting releases. It’s not a problem unique to the PC space, of course — industries across the board, including the automotive field, are being held up.

The Lenovo ThinkBook plus Gen 3 keyboard seen from above. The primary screen displays a blue swirl on a white background.
Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

These delays, Kleynhans believes, are, unsurprisingly, “mostly supply chain issues,” and a lot of it has to do with the current COVID situation in China, which has led to lockdowns in key tech hubs. Kleynhans told me that “until China really opens back up, which seems to be what we’re seeing now, and it can catch up from the backlog that’s been created, we’re going to continue to see disruptions on top of the disruptions that were already there.” He thinks PC availability could be disrupted “at least towards summer and towards the end of the year.”

It’s not only that companies are having trouble getting current-gen units into their hands. In Kleynhans’s view, it has to do with the fulfillment of last-gen orders as well. “If you’ve got a customer who placed an order for 1,000 machines three or four months ago, and they still haven’t received them, you don’t want to release this year’s model while those orders are outstanding,” Kleynhans told me. We’re certainly seeing delays on current models as well; many of Apple’s most recent MacBook Pros are showing ship dates of late July or later. (Apple is heavily rumored to have a new MacBook Air in the pipeline, and it will be interesting to see whether the company is able to stick to its usual near-term availability timeline.)

“We’re going to continue to see disruptions”

When it comes to supply chain delays, the PC market is hardly the worst-hit (or most important) industry. The world will continue to turn if 17-inch foldable PCs take longer than expected to ship. And laptop delays are hardly the most important or impactful consequence of this pandemic.

Still, this situation should serve as a reminder of a fact that is, frankly, always worth remembering: the PC space has so many moving parts. Many things had to go right to deliver the laptop you’re typing on right now and the laptop I’m typing on right now (it’s a Zephyrus G14, if you’re curious) to our doorsteps. It’s fun to live in a world full of haptics, foldables, and 2X performance gains in the early part of the year. But the real world is more complicated and boring, and even the coolest innovations require all kinds of logistical stars to align.

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