Life extension for hardware

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

As the recession stretches into 2009, companies are pushing their PC refresh cycles out to five years, according to solution providers contacted by Channel Insider. That's bad news for PC and server makers Dell, HP and Lenovo, but represents a different kind of opportunity for savvy solution providers.

"If cared for and with good components, a PC’s service life can exceed six years particularly if firms shift much of the application base to the Web-based SAAS [software as a service] offerings," says Rob Enderle, principle analyst for the Enderle Group. "Laptops, which now exceed desktops, are typically not cared for well enough to make six years, though, with the upper limit being closer to four years."

Enderle warns that once this extended refresh cycle is in place, it could well become the new normal for the declining desktop base. "We are well down that road at the moment," he says.

"Laptops may end up going in a different direction with employee purchase options and the ability of line managers to increasingly specify the hardware in conjunction with their employees, much like what generally happens with cell phones," adds Enderle. "The end game here could be subsidies paid to employees who eventually purchase their own PCs and a process where IT applies a second image with a locked down corporate load that can be blown away if the employee leaves they then don’t lose one of their critical tools and IT can protect the company’s information."

Cloud computing could be another potential game changer, Enderle says, as Web-based devices such as netbooks take hold and could be both less expensive and have longer service lives given their solid state construction. "A lot of firms evidently are looking at both methods (subsidies and netbooks) all of the sudden."

MJ Shoer, president and virtual CTO for solution provider Jenaly Technology Group, says that the refresh cycle seems to depend on the customer, with some sticking to three years and others moving towards four years, but cloud computing could indeed be a game changer.

However, "As PCs continue to get more and more powerful and reliable, I don't think it's unreasonable to see refresh rates extend beyond the traditional three year turn," he says. "If cloud computing really does take off and people move to netbooks or thinner clients, that may also have an impact, but that is all currently more hype than reality today."

 The upside

The switch to a five-year cycle leads to a different kind of business for solution providers, according to Doug Ford, president of The I.T. Pros in San Diego.

"We are helping our customers to find ways to cut costs," he says. "Extending the life of a server, a desktop or a network device is one element of our overall strategy for helping our customers keep their capital expenditures to a minimum in 2009," Ford says. "The only exception is laptops. Laptops are taking the desktop by storm, but they won't last more than three years on average.

"The 'tech refresh' pitch isn't going to cut it in 2009," says Ford. "The 'tech extend' pitch is the new black."


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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