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“When we found out we would be doing remote learning in full, it meant we had to get devices distributed out to students in need,” Lara Hussain, manager of academic technology for Denver Public Schools, told CNN Business. “Timing was critical … No one wants to start where students have no access to devices or the internet.”

But with districts across the country all placing big device orders around the same time — and with many universities and companies also reliant on remote work — the unprecedented demand for laptops has strained supply chains. As a result, schools and families are dealing with shipping delays, limited selections and higher-than-usual technology costs.

Many device makers say they’re working to scale production to meet the need, but there’s only so much they can do.

“The supply chain is not built to satisfy this kind of demand,” NPD analyst Stephen Baker said, adding: “I would be surprised if anything is fully caught up before the end of the [calendar] year.”

‘Not even a fraction of what we needed’

Denver Public Schools began the process of ordering devices in April for the fall, and by mid-July had completed orders for more than 12,500 Lenovo 300E touchscreen laptops, Hussain said. The district had previously used that device and believed it had the features and durability needed for remote learning.

But several weeks later, the district’s third-party supplier said the order was stuck in US Customs, and encouraged DPS to look into alternatives.

“We worked on a myriad of fronts to look at other solutions,” Hussain said. “We started calling big box stores, Amazon, to see what was the max amount that we could order over any number of days. What we saw very quickly was that there was no inventory, not even a fraction of what we needed.”

Best Buy (BBY) CEO Corie Barry said on an earnings call last week that “stronger-than-anticipated demand” as the company reopened stores “resulted in more constrained product availability.” Amazon (AMZN) declined to comment, but its website also shows limited stock for some devices.

So the Denver school district dug through school storage units and refurbished old laptops, and asked families that borrowed devices in the spring to return them if they had other options. It also bought other laptops for nearly $100,000 more than what it had originally planned to pay.

The issue has implications beyond the added stress and money. Hussain said that having students on different kinds of laptops complicates repair processes and forces teachers to troubleshoot across multiple operating systems.

“From an academic standpoint, we want our teachers to be familiar with the tools that students will be working on,” Hussain said. “If we’re all familiar with a common device, that results in better outcomes for our students and reduces lost instruction time.”

Other school districts have also run into the issue, with varying degrees of severity.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles Unified School District told CNN Business last week that devices are currently available for all of its students, but outstanding orders for replacement Chromebooks and iPads have been delayed.

And in Waterford, Michigan, Vicki Shellnut said her kids’ school district has also experienced delays in receiving its laptop order. She’s been juggling her three childrens’ schedules on a single district-issued device.

While her 14-year-old son has two hours of online class daily, Shellnut’s 10- and 9-year-old spend just a half hour checking in with their teachers and use paper packets sent by the school for most of their work — which Shellnut then has to grade.

Balancing all that with online homework programs and telehealth doctors’ appointments has made for a tricky scheduling task. But buying another device isn’t an option for Shellnut’s family after her husband, who works in sales, was temporarily out of work because of the pandemic.

“I have kids with different sign-ins and programs and I have to try to to make sure that they get their time in every day,” Shellnut said. “It’s going to be challenging with all the scheduling trying to make sure everything is done.”

‘Sales spikes that we haven’t ever seen’

The issue is not that device makers are producing fewer laptops. Many device makers are actually enjoying elevated sales. Since the first week of April, PC retail sales have jumped 44% compared to the same period in the prior year, according to NPD’s Baker.

This year, though, demand this year has been so great that tech companies have been left scrambling to meet the need.

“Acer and the entire industry are facing historic demand for computers and monitors,” a spokesperson for device maker Acer said in a statement to CNN Business. “Component supply is fairly tight; however, Acer and our supplies are working diligently to put products in the hands of customers as quickly as possible.”

Similarly, an HP (HPQ) spokesperson said: “We are working hard to help schools get computers in the hands of students as quickly as possible.”
The rapid increase in demand compounded existing pressure on many tech companies’ supply chains. Even before the coronavirus hit, device makers were already grappling with tariffs and other Trump administration restrictions on trade with China. And in the early days of the pandemic, many producers in China temporarily shut down factories or scaled back operations.

“When [laptop] sales started increasing in March, no one started out in a good place,” NPD analyst Stephen Baker said.

Still, he added, if things had normalized after several weeks, tech suppliers would likely have caught up. “But the fact that it’s gone on for five months means that it’s a challenge,” he said.

In a recent earnings call, Dell (DELL) Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke pointed out that it can take a while to get crucial laptop components, such as silicon and liquid crystal display screens.

“The lead times in our products service are getting better by the day,” Clarke said. “But that’s the challenge in front of us … It’s this unanticipated spike in demand in this particular sub-segment that has driven industry shortages, which I’m sure you heard from everybody, we’re responding to.”

How much are you spending on remote learning for your kids? Share your story with CNN here.

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McDonald’s new pastries are here. Here’s how to get them for free

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The expansion of the company’s McCafé lineup adds three new sweets — an apple fritter, a blueberry muffin and a cinnamon roll — to menus as it finds itself in a competitive battle with rivals over the first meal of the day.

McDonald’s is giving away one of the new items free with a purchase of a hot or iced coffee on orders placed through its app. The promotion runs from November 3 through November 9 and is valid once per day at any time.

McDonald’s (MCD) regularly tries to entice customers to use its app with a variety of promotions and coupons, as well as a limited rewards program aimed at boosting coffee sales. Increasing the app’s user base is “key,” according to Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy, because the promotion could build customer loyalty: Customers might be coaxed to come back because of future offers.
The chain could use the boost, as it faces more competition at breakfast. Its most notable rival is Wendy’s (WEN), which launched its own breakfast menu nationwide for the first the time earlier this year. It features a mix of salty and sweet items such as the Breakfast Baconator and Frosty-ccino.
Breakfast now accounts for 8% of Wendy’s total sales, and the company also launched a robust rewards program on its app this summer.

Meanwhile, the future of McDonald’s own All Day Breakfast remains hazy. The chain has not announced when or even if it will bring that menu back after cutting it in March because of the pandemic. The new sweets launching Wednesday might partially fill the void.

In the US, McDonald’s sales have finally turned a corner following a bleak spring. Sales at US stores open at least a year jumped 4.6% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, the company said in a regulatory filing earlier this month. The company said it grew sales during “all dayparts,” an encouraging sign that it finally stemmed its declines during breakfast hours.
Sales improvements in the US were driven in part by “strong performance” at dinner and new items and stunts, including the Travis Scott Meal and spicy nuggets. This month, it hopes to replicate the success with a new J. Balvin meal — and now, new baked goods.

McDonald’s will release full third-quarter results on November 9.

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Tony Chung: Hong Kong activist detained near US embassy charged

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Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung has been charged under a new national security law, just days after he was detained outside the US consulate.

Mr Chung, 19, had reportedly planned to enter the consulate and claim asylum.

The activist faces the possibility of life in prison if found guilty of secession, conspiracy to publish seditious content and money laundering.

Mr Chung, the second person to be charged under the law, was denied bail by the court.

The controversial law was imposed by China on Hong Kong in June, making it easier to punish protesters and reducing the city’s autonomy.

What do we know about his detention?

According to the South China Morning Post, Mr Chung was detained on Tuesday morning at a coffee shop opposite the US consulate.

UK-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong said he had planned to enter and claim asylum. Instead, footage taken from near the consulate showed him being carried away by plain-clothes police.

Mr Chung, who was a former member of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, said activists had not given up fighting.

“At the right moment, we will come out to protest again,” he told BBC Chinese in a recent interview.

“Yes we lose at this moment. But the road to democracy is always long.”

He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on 7 January next year.

What is Hong Kong’s new security law?

Hong Kong’s national security law was imposed by Beijing in June after months of huge pro-democracy protests last year against an extradition bill.

The new law makes secession, subversion of the central government, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

In July, several were arrested under the new powers, including a man carrying a “Hong Kong Independence” flag.

  • China’s new law: Why is Hong Kong worried?

  • UK makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

The law gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory.

Critics say it effectively puts an end to the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing for 50 years after British rule ended in Hong Kong in 1997, but China says it will return stability to the city.

After the passing of the security law, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship.

China has condemned this, saying it would take countermeasures against the UK should it grant residency to Hong Kong residents.

Related Topics

  • Hong Kong national security law

  • China
  • Hong Kong

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AOC: ‘I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever’

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President Donald Trump has taken particular pleasure in warning that Ocasio-Cortez poses a threat to Schumer, while describing prominent Democratic leaders including presidential nominee Joe Biden as beholden to her more liberal agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez is also viewed as one of the likeliest inheritors of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive coalition if she were to run for president. The congresswoman, who endorsed Sanders in the 2020 White House race, turned 31 earlier this month and would meet the constitutional presidential age requirement of 35 by November 2024.

Another possibility is Ocasio-Cortez joining a potential Biden administration in some capacity. She was tapped in May to serve as a co-chair of the Biden-Sanders joint task force on climate change — one of six working groups meant to advise the Biden campaign on policy.

But Ocasio-Cortez told Vanity Fair she did not “want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position.”

“I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective,” she said. “And so, you know, I don’t know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that’s always what the question comes down to.”

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