Is It Time To Upgrade Your PCs? - InformationWeek

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6/26/2003
04:27 PM
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Is It Time To Upgrade Your PCs?

Despite the slow economic recovery, some companies are finding good reasons to buy desktop computers

When BMO Financial Group deployed 20,000 PCs earlier this year, it was one small piece of a much bigger project. BMO, which includes the Bank of Montreal, is revamping much of its IT infrastructure to improve customer service. The project includes a move early next year to Siebel 7.5 from version 6 of Siebel Systems Inc.'s customer-relationship management software.

The first step for Canada's fifth-largest bank, with 33,000 employees and 1,100 branches, was to standardize on Microsoft's Windows 2000 and Active Directory, which required faster processors and more memory. The bank chose IBM M41 and M42 PCs as the foundation of its most ambitious technology project ever. "Our project wasn't about upgrading PCs--it was to improve the quality of customer service and employee experience," says Frank Erschen, a VP with BMO's technology and solutions division.

BMO's attitude toward PCs is a common one. The health of the economy and business strategies have a greater influence on PC purchases than faster chip speeds and other technical advances, says Roger Kay, IDC's VP of client computing. IDC in June lowered its forecast for 2003 PC shipment growth in part because the economic recovery is going slower than expected.

IDC expects PC shipments to grow 6.3%, to 145.2 million units, worldwide in 2003, down from the 6.9% growth predicted in March. The March estimate was a downgrade from December's prediction of 8.3% PC shipment growth.

Gartner, meanwhile, says PC shipments will reach 136.9 million units in 2003, a 6.6% increase from 2002, and PC revenue is on pace to total $170.6 billion in 2003, up 3.3% from 2002 revenue. Dell Computer led the way during the first quarter, shipping more than 5,800 PCs worldwide. Hewlett-Packard held the second spot with nearly 5,400 PCs shipped. IBM was third with fewer than 2,000 PCs shipped.

Still, for vendors, slow growth is better than no growth. Companies won't be able to get by much longer on the PCs they purchased in preparation for the Y2K threat, particularly as Microsoft and Intel push standard desktop configurations to higher levels. "It's hard to argue why you need a new desktop from a year ago, but it's not hard if you've got a vintage PC from 1999," Kay says.

The city of Topeka, Kan., this year replaced a smorgasbord of older desktops with 270 Gateway Profile 4 PCs. What attracted the city to the Profile 4 was its all-in-one design, which includes a 17-inch flat-panel display, Pentium 4 processor, 512-Mbyte memory, 60-Gbyte hard drive, and CD/DVD combo drive. "We wanted to standardize on Windows 2000 and Office 2000, but some of our PCs couldn't run them," says Neil Wilson, a PC technician for the city's IT department.

Topeka needed to upgrade city workers' PCs to accommodate initiatives city agencies have planned. The Parks Department, for example, wants to use digital cameras to post pictures of the city's zoo, summer camp, and public spaces on the Web. But some of the city's PCs were 6 years old and couldn't handle digital photos, Wilson says.

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