Mobility still the key for PC growth

Mobility still the key for PC growth

While the advent of the mobility era has radically changed the way computers are deployed and used, the humble PC should not be dismissed as a commodity item, a Gartner analyst has warned.

Speaking at the recent Symposium, Gartner analyst, Martin Gilliland, said Australian PC budgets had not contracted in 2003, and “in a lot of cases they’re going up”.

“Although there are significant variations by industry, the overwhelming majority of IT budgets in enterprises appear to be staying positive,” Gilliland said.

Quoting a Gartner base budget survey, he said 70 per cent to 90 per cent of most enterprises had claimed to have the same or better IT budget for desktop and laptop PCs in 2003.

But with budgets mostly holding steady, desktop PC sales were still dipping, he said.

The global growth rate of notebooks (25 per cent) outstripped desktop computers (3.7 per cent) in 2003.

Drilling down to the local market, Australian figures were slightly lower. Laptop growth was 20 per cent, with negative growth predicted for desktop PCs.

“Growth in the PC space worldwide is being kept alive by two major phenomena: the take-up rate of mobile devices and replacement rates,” he said.

While the narrowing pricepoint gap between notebooks and desktop PCs was fuelling the migration of users to mobile solutions, they would need to weigh up the cost of initial outlay against total cost of ownership (TCO) when deciding whether to go mobile.

Depending on the managerial status and value of the individual employee, the higher TCO of a laptop could be paid for within a year if the employee gained an extra 1.5 to 3.5 hours per week from it, he said.

Drivers for future growth in the PC arena included LCD technology, and the continued desktop replacement trend. Retail promotion and the market in secondhand computers would also be drivers. Government initiatives and E-government would also spur growth.

Technologies such as hyperthreading, 802.11b, Centrino and DVD RW were wielding strength in the market as their applications were embraced by users.

Looking ahead, Gilliland said the next two to three years would see small form factor PCs become a compelling technology. Linux would also become viable on the desktop in some organisations.

While PCs were viewed as a commodity item, the key to differentiation would lie with vendors and sellers who were aware of end-user needs, he said.

“PCs have been reported to be a commodity item, but there are still major differentiating factors of the PC,” Gilliland said. “It is also still a major part of the corporate IT budget, and it should be treated as a serious corporate asset.”

As the market matured, technology would be less of a market driver, he said.

“Vendors must concentrate on differentiating their products on the non-technical level,” Gilliland said.

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