Desktop, Laptop PC Refresh on the Way, Eventually

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Businesses large and small have delayed their desktop and laptop PC refresh plans anywhere from six months to 18 months, a trend that has hurt companies such as Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo. But the delay can't last forever, and some resellers, vendors and distributors say that the great PC refresh is coming.

You may be reading all the stories about amazing new processors and high-performing, low-power PCs on the market today, but chances are you aren’t reading this story on one of them. Unless you are at home.

Responding to a deep economic recession, companies across the board have delayed their PC refresh cycles, and today’s corporate users are likely to be issued PCs that are four or five years old. And when that one breaks there are plenty more four- and five-year-old PCs to use since most companies have shrunk their work forces and have an ample supply of unused PCs ready to replace the ones that fail.

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"People have put off the refresh anywhere from six months to 18 months longer than they normally would have," says Joe Quaglia, senior vice president for U.S. marketing at technology distributor Tech Data.

The PC refresh delay has left vendors, solution providers, distributors and pundits to debate when, if ever, the next PC refresh cycle will actually arrive, bringing with it upgrades of software and applications and installation services. And the best-guess consensus seems to be … drumroll, please … early to mid-2010.

By then, Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 7, will have been on the market long enough to have worked out its bugs, and companies that sat out upgrading for Microsoft Windows Vista will be ready to make a move to Microsoft’s most recent OS.

"Windows 7 could be the driver for a huge refresh cycle," says Marc Harrison, president of Silicon East, a New Jersey-based solution provider. "If the features are hugely compelling and the bugs few, there is tremendous pent-up demand."

MJ Shoer, president of Jenaly Technology Group in Portsmouth, N.H., also believes that Windows 7 will be a big driver, and that the refresh could even start toward the end of 2009.

"Some businesses will want to maximize end-of-year expenses, despite the tough economy, and this may be the right stimulus to make that happen," he tells Channel Insider. "In terms of a larger, global refresh cycle, I think next year will see a lot of this activity."

Tech Data’s Quaglia also believes the PC refresh will come in 2010.

"We think it will be in 2010, but it’s very hard to predict," he says. "At some point CIOs and CFOs will have to pull the trigger. "The older the technology gets it seems like the slower it gets. The more it breaks the more total cost of ownership you get."

Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell in May 2009 told analysts during the company’s most recent earnings call that Dell was expecting a big refresh of enterprise client computers in 2010 – nine months to a year from now.

"They are planning a pretty big 2010 client refresh," Dell says. "There will be a pretty powerful cycle of upgrades in the client environment."  

"Users are getting restless with these four-year-old and five-year-old machines," says Dell, especially when they are experiencing all the great features on their newer machines at home.

But not everyone is so optimistic. Third Eye Tech primarily deals with small organizations – both for profit and nonprofit – and so far these customers show no sign of pulling that refresh trigger.

"Typically, with small organizations, they need one of three things to happen for an organizational refresh to happen – a financial windfall, mass system failures or speed issues or application driven upgrades," says Steve Alexander, president. "The problem that we have been in the midst of for quite some time now is that none of these is happening.

"The problem is that small organizations tend to not budget equipment replacement costs no matter how hard we try to prepare them for this."

Alexander says he does continue to see success, however, with his company’s managed offerings.

Silicon East’s Harrison says that managed offerings could potentially drive a refresh, too.

"The other big driver for us has been Intel’s vPro technology," he says. "Our clients really like our ability to remotely power-on PCs in the middle of the night and perform off-hours maintenance."

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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