Productivity And Mobility Drive PC Purchasing

Darrell Dunn, Contributor

June 3, 2005

4 Min Read

Three-quarters of all PCs purchased in the past year were bought to replace existing systems, as U.S. businesses seek to use newer technologies to improve worker productivity and lower support costs.

While replacement cycles and strategies for corporate PCs can vary, businesses report that the average life of their desktop computers is 43 months, while the average life of laptops is 36 months, according to a recent survey of 177 large businesses by research firm Gartner.

chart: PC Longevity -- What is the lifespan of your company's PC's?The No. 1 reason for replacing a PC is user productivity issues such as system performance problems and failures, followed by increasing support costs for older computers and changing software requirements, the survey reports. Even though survey respondents say older computers are more costly to maintain, they "cascade," or redeploy, one in three PCs to other employees within the business.

The growth of mobile computing continues to be a significant factor shaping the computing needs of many businesses. Mobile PC shipments to large U.S. businesses increased more than 20% per year in 2003 and 2004, according to Gartner. At large companies, nearly 20% of all PCs in use are mobile, with the ratio of desktops to mobile computers varying little from industry to industry.

Many businesses have outdated operating systems and are using software for which support has ended or soon will end, the Gartner study also indicates. About 8% of the systems from businesses surveyed use Windows NT, 2% use Windows 95, and 6% use Windows 98. Microsoft no longer supports Windows NT or 95, and paid support for Windows 98 is scheduled to end next June. Replacement of outdated software could lag even longer as some businesses delay purchasing a platform until the release of the next Windows operating system, code-named Longhorn, late in 2006, Gartner says.

What's your company doing to keep PCs relevant and cost effective? Let us know at the address below.

Darrell Dunn,
Associate Editor
[email protected]

Replacement Factor
What's the primary reason your company replaces PCs?

The annual growth rate of software revenue last year was 4.4%, according to Gartner. When asked the primary reason for replacing desktops and laptops, nearly a quarter of PC decision-makers at 177 large U.S. companies say it's because of new software requirements. The most-reported reason is investing to improve productivity. Nearly 40% of sites base upgrades on employee output.

chart: Replacement Factor -- What's the primary reason your company replaces PCs?

Windows Wins
What's your company's mix of PC operating systems?

Windows is the PC operating system of choice at large U.S. businesses. Apple's Macintosh captured only 2% of systems across the companies that Gartner surveyed. While there's more of a willingness to use open-source products on desktops and laptops, survey results don't support this. Linux is reportedly being used on only 1% of machines at the companies studied.

chart: Windows Wins -- What's your company's mix of PC operating systems?

Mobile Slowdown
What's the primary reason for your company's purchases of mobile PCs?

The growth of mobile computing may be starting to slow slightly. While survey respondents say that 8% of their PC users moved to mobile platforms in the year before the survey, only 5% plan to move users to mobile PCs within the next year. The leading reason for purchasing mobile PCs is an increase in the number of traveling and field workers. Only 2% switch to mobile machines to save space.

chart: Mobile Slowdown -- What's the primary reason for your company's purchases of mobile PCs?

End Result
How does your company dispose of PCs?

When it's time to get rid of PCs, companies aren't putting them in storage. Instead, they prefer to take machines to disposal companies, Gartner found. One in five donate desktops and laptops to either charity or schools. Only 10% return the machines to the company from which they were purchased or leased. Some sell old PCs to employees or to other companies.

chart: End Result -- How does your company dispose of PCs?

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