Despite many in the channel shifting their businesses away from low-margin hardware sales to higher-value services, a new report indicates that there is still money to be made from PC sales.
The Spiceworks' research, Future of the PC: Top computer brands adoption trends in the workplace, shows that despite the popularity of smartphones and tablets, employees still use laptops and desktops as their primary work device - and organisations aren't planning to shift investments away from traditional PCs in the foreseeable future.
Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, said the death of the PC has been greatly exaggerated.
"Although desktop PC growth is expected to stall a bit they're still the primary computing device of choice in many businesses," he said.
Among the organisations surveyed in the US, Canada and the UK, 60 percent of employees currently use desktops as their primary work device, and laptops are favored by 27 percent.
In terms of future business investments, desktop investments are expected to be relatively flat in the next 12 months, but 43 percent of businesses surveyed said they expect to increase their laptop investments. Mobile devices, such as tablets (25 per cent), smartphones (16 per cent) and 2-in-1s (18 per cent) are expected to see about half the growth of laptops.
"Growth in laptop sales presents a strong and viable opportunity for the channel. Forty-three percent of businesses are planning to increase their investments in laptops, which is nearly double the percent of organisations that intend to spend more on tablets or smartphones," Tsai says.
"So while there is plenty of hype around mobile devices, both desktops or laptops will continue to be omnipresent in the workplace for the foreseeable future, and it's an opportunity the channel should not ignore."
The feedback from IT professionals is that while mobile devices are fine for browsing the web and viewing documents, they are limited regarding other business functions, such as inputting data and creating, editing and saving documents, according to Tsai.
As such, a mobile-dominated workplace is "at least three to five years off", Tsai said.
Breaking down customer preferences, the research finds 25 percent of companies plan to increase their investments in Dell PCs within the next 12 months, while 17 percent and 13 percent plan to increase spending with HP Inc. and Lenovo, respectively.
Among other PC vendors, 15 percent of those surveyed plan to increase their investments in Microsoft PCs, while eight percent plan to spend more on Apple laptops and desktops.
The results show computer reliability is the most important factor - respondents believe Dell, HP and Lenovo produce the most reliable devices - followed by performance, security and cost. Other factors, such as manageability, user-friendliness and ease of repair are slightly less important, and innovative features and style ranked the lowest as contributing factors.
Device-as-a-Service: The "potential" disruptor
The news that there is still profitability in PCs is positive for the channel, although most successful VARs have in the last few years distanced themselves from the ‘box-pusher' tag, instead emphasising the ‘value-add' part of their description. Margins on hardware continue to be squeezed, and partners continue to look for ways to bolster their existing revenue streams with accompanying hardware, software and services.
One trend that's gaining traction is Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) or PC-as-a-Service, depending on the vendor offering. DaaS consolidates hardware, software and services into one contract with one vendor that is paid for in monthly subscription-style payments.
Despite a relatively new concept, analyst IDC writes in a recent paper sponsored by HP Inc., The "As a Service" Model Comes to Hardware; Promises to Disrupt Enterprise Procurement, that DaaS has the "potential to be a disruptor and game changer".
DaaS, it said, can help organisations accelerate their refresh cycles, unlock significant cost savings and reduce IT workload.
Spiceworks' Tsai said the trend lines up with the phenomenon of "almost everything under the sun", including infrastructure, software, backups and printing, shifting to an as-a-service model.
"In general, the benefits of shifting spend from [CapEx] to OpEx while offloading the support burden to a third party is appealing to many organisations," he said. "Shifting to more of an as-a-service model can result in greater predictability in monthly IT expenses, allow organisations to scale resources up and down as needed and free up time for IT pros to focus more on strategic initiatives and core competencies."
With both HP and Dell now offer DaaS schemes to their channel partners, IDC predicts that activity in the space will "continue to evolve rapidly" in the near term and says it expects the channel to build out capabilities to support DaaS.
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