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PC shipments bring some cause for optimism

Technology markets | PC shipments bring some cause for optimism Anthony Harrington

At the end of August 2010 the technology market watcher Gartner cut what had been a very optimistic forecast for the year-on-year growth of total global PC shipments for the second half of 2010 to just over 15%, down some 2% from its original forecast.

That, of course, is still huge and is a good indication of the volume of spending on technology that corporates have been doing as they prepare for what they hope will be a lasting upturn. Any company can only run with old technology for just so long before its rivals start eating it for breakfast. However, business and desktop applications have not seen anything like the voracious demand for more and more processing power that has characterised leisure PCs. So the need for companies to upgrade their desktop infrastructure has generally been less pressing.

According to Gartner, in general terms, the age of corporate PCs is now greater than at any previous time since the invention of the PC. The time for a general clear out and upgrade in large numbers of companies is fast approaching, it thinks. Once a general upgrade cycle takes hold its impact on PC shipments could be dramatic. In the mobile space there is more demand for faster “refresh” cycles as  executives tend to want latest generation laptops and do not have too much sympathy for any central IT department’s attempt to keep them yoked to ageing models.

Gartner’s prediction for worldwide desktop PC sales for the full year of 2010 foresees an overall year-on-year increase of 19.2%, to 367.8 million units. If that sounds huge, it is dwarfed, at least in percentage terms, by mobile PC shipments, which grew by 43% in the first quarter of 2010, the strongest rate of growth in the mobile PC market for eight years. In all, almost 50 million units were shipped in the first quarter of 2010, at a cost to end users amounting to some $36 billion.

According to Gartner, the consumer market took up most of the shipments of mobile PCs, but Gartner expects demand in the professional market to grow strongly in the second half of 2010 and into 2011.

Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal warned businesses that while they have got away thus far with delaying upgrading their PC asset base, they couldn’t put it off for much longer. “Businesses risk alienating employees, burdening themselves with more service requests and support costs, and ultimately facing higher migration costs when they eventually migrate to Windows 7 (Microsoft’s latest operating system),” he warned.

One of the questions that companies have been grappling with has been whether or not to add new tablet PCs, such as the Apple iPad—more are planned by manufacturers such as HP and Dell—to their PC inventory. Their penetration into the leisure market means that many executives now use a tablet PC in their leisure time. As such, many would like to use the devices, which don’t have a keyboard but which are much easier to work with and have a bigger screen than a handheld device, as their preferred way of accessing corporate e-mail on the move. IT departments will have their hands full going forward working out their position—and the security implications—of yet another technology innovation.

Further reading on technology and business

Tags: Gartner , information technology , PC form factor , technology refresh
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