How Businesses Need To Change The Way They Purchase PCs

We constantly encounter headlines about how tablets are killing PC sales. That doesn't mean computers are disappearing from the workplace, but it does mean the way you buy them for business use will change dramatically. Here are some key issues to consider when doing that.

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These ideas come from a session presented by research VP Stephen Kleynhans at the recent Gartner Symposium event in Queensland. Kleynhans points out that the traditional approach to manufacturing and selling computers -- one which has been largely unchanged since the early 1980s -- is now seeing a radical shift:

The PC industry as we knew it is fundamentally broken. The PC market has crashed and it's not coming back. This is not a blip. Sales will continue to shrink for a while and then get onto some small growth, but we're never going to get back to the market we had five years ago.

The major driver of that change has been the shift to bring-your-own-device and the adoption of alternative form factors. "Technologies are becoming mainstream faster than the IT organisation can absorb them, and this pace of change is accelerating," Kleynhans said. "You're not a dictator -- now you guide the organisation."

One major issue for business is that the buying cycles for non-traditional form factors are much shorter. "We're going through a very unsettled period when it comes to form factors," Kleynhans noted. "There will be a lot of experimentation and a lot of rapid obsolescence. The life cycle on the average tablet is slightly under two years, and on phones it's under 18 months."

Yet even if those devices can be sourced appropriately, traditional PCs aren't going away. If nothing else, where else is the development of all those tablet and mobile apps going to happen? But BYOD also messes with enterprise management for computers, especially laptops.

"The enterprise side of the business are being attacked by the consumer side of the business and it's getting harder and harder to justify enterprise class devices over consumer class devices. Traditional management tools many times require enterprise class devices, so those techniques start to break down," Kleynhans said.

"This is a massive change, and begs the question: do I still need an enterprise client device and an enterprise client vendor? You need to think about that going forward. We probably will evolve over the next few years away from that."

Large computing contracts have often relied on a single supplier. That's a model Gartner itself has advocated in the past, but its position has shifted.

"For seven or eight years, we've been very clear in our recommendation that you should be single-sourcing your PC purchasing from a single vendor," Kleynhans said. "The competition in the industry has kept them honest. You keep your wood behind one arrow. But now we think you need to have a second supplier in the wings, because there is so much risk that your primary vendor might suddenly not be a vendor any more. You should not be looking at the devices themselves as the way you differentiate."

"The average selling prices have shrunk to the level that it's questionable whether it's sustainable. PC makers are losing money in significant ways. The situation's untenable. The likelihood is some of the guys are going to get out of it. I don't think there's a single PC manufacturer today that I would guarantee will still be making PCs five years from now, and yet some of you are signing three-to-five year contracts.

Under those circumstances, support is often a bigger issue than the actual specifications. "Put a strong focus on the support the vendors are proving," Kleynhans advised. "The hardware will take care of itself. None of the vendors are producing really bad hardware."

The bottom line? You can't stick with your current approach. ""Everything you have in place today to support your end users -- every tool, every process, every policy -- will be changed over the next five years," Kleynhans said. "Some will be thrown out, some will be slightly modified, but every single aspect will be impacted. Everything will change."

"The traditional IT environments you have today will continue to exist for a very long time, especially when compliance matters," Kleynhans said. "The enterprise client is disappearing, but enterprise client computing will continue." So you need a PC buying plan, but a more flexible one than you may have used before.


    I look around the office. NOT ONE Laptop, Tablet or otherwise to be seen. Only PC's

      I look around our office - not one PC. All laptops (with docking stations and monitors)

      Combined with an all office wifi network it makes a surprising difference in working.

      Last edited 18/11/13 2:30 pm

        Laptops are PCs. I can't think of anything more Personal than a Laptop or Tablet.

        I look around my office - a couple PC's (repurposed as VM hosts for test labs), Server rack, Convertibles laptops and Desktop replacement laptops.

        Carrying that bugger to/from home is a real pain, but it beats some of client's production servers. Not their old ones, either.

        Edit: Though I would appreciate a nice convertible once we get our infrastructure up in the cloud. Half the reason I have this brick is due to running out of resources in aforementioned rack.

        Last edited 18/11/13 4:22 pm

          I look around our office - Why is everyone STILL using those old compaq pcs for everything!?!
          More than half have broken down twice and keep being reused.

      I look around every office I've ever worked in, and see precisely the same thing. There are only desktop computers, using the Windows 7 operating system, and sometimes (Defence) using Windows XP SP3.

      I've never seen any Macs utilised at any workplaces, except once in IT Helpdesk, where it was needed in the computer lab to reproduce problems to fix them. The only time I've ever seen portable computers was when someone brought them in to watch movies or play games during odd hours.

        Anyone trying to set up WiFi in my area can expect a not-so-funny probing from ASIO about espionage.

        Doesn't help the interview if you point out their wireless mouse is a Bluetooth transmitter.

    I disagree with the highlighted quote on this article. If you wanna get things done, you need a workstation - screen + mouse + kb. Sure, dockable tablets can fit this space, but the business usually doesn't want to foot the extra cost for some data entry drone.

    Tablets are perfect devices for information consumption. You need a real PC (laptop or desktop) to get real work done.
    This is why management love to tote about their tablets.

    Quite frankly, I would never purchase a tablet or a laptop for a companies workstation. If an employee needed to do some work out of the office, I'd give them a cheap laptop with remote access into their work and personal drives for document access.

    I've tried doing work on just about every mainstream device you can think of, but I'm vastly more productive on a proper PC. Even laptops slow me down. Tablets are a joke, they may appear in small numbers in some companies with staff that mostly respond to emails and such, but I've never seen anyone be actually productive with one.

    I've also not seen a Surface in use though, so it may be different.

    I am currently equipping 100 staff with either a Surface Pro 2 or Dell Venue 11 Pro at the beginning of 2014, to replace their current desktop PC and tablet (iPad). Will have a docking station connected to a full size keyboard, mouse and monitor (two monitors for anyone important, three for me) at both their desk and any of the hotdesk / variable rooms. Staff are also free to take the devices home and utilise them as their home computer, with remote access to work provided.

    In my environment, I think this is really the way things should go.

    I still rely on hp for purchases. They are still making notebooks, even ultrabooks with a docking station port. I am using dual monitors at work.
    But thinking of future, I would not mind a form factor and an OS that would allow me to bring my own storage with my environment to any workplace that happens to have a proper monitors, keyboards and mouse. Eventually everything will be written on a smartcard that you take with you wherever you go. A world full of "mindless" PCs with empty SC slots? Count me in.
    A horror for MS licensing model, however.

    Last edited 19/11/13 3:28 pm

    Gartner keep pushing this BYOD shenanigans from the US - it will not work here.

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