Demand for desktop PCs is falling. It's a fact, and for those integrators that have found it hard to switch to notebook production, trying to make a living out of desktops is fast becoming impossible.
Unless you are well in with your local SMEs and are lucky to have the world's most loyal customers, dealing in PCs alone is commercial suicide. Even integrators that have attempted to attract a consumer audience have found it a thankless endeavour.
The big brands are selling machines so cheaply through the high street retailers that it's impossible to fight on price. Meanwhile, Dell is deliberately keeping prices low to force its rivals into loss-making situations. The fallout means many integrators are going to the wall.
So with the whole world gone mobile and notebook crazy, where's the money to be made on the humble desktop? Frankly, nowhere, unless you occupy a niche or exploit a new market, such as Media Center PCs, for example.
Not a lot has changed in consumer PCs for a long time. Sure, the graphics cards are faster, hard drives are bigger and 512MB to 1GB of DRam is old hat, but apart from the 'smaller-bigger-faster' sell, there has been no real innovation.
Media Center PCs may not be a massive technological breakthrough but they are helping to revolutionise the way people use PCs. Unlike your old PC, which sits like some ugly carbuncle in the corner of your Ikea living room, Media PCs are at the cutting edge of consumer electronics design.
They look more like DVD players that hook up to the TV, and the current version of the Media Center operating system works well. The wall dividing the PC from the rest of a user's consumer electronics has been demolished. But are Media Center PCs selling in droves? No.
At least, not according to IDC. Its report on first-quarter 2005 sales in the PC sector says that Media Center PCs "again represented relatively small volumes". Hardly inspiring, but there is little doubt that Media PCs are going to play a bigger role in the market. Potential customers are still in the 'education' phase. Readers of PC magazines and early adopters are well along the road but the masses have yet to be sold.
Once the big brands and retailers start some heavy branding over the coming year, all of this will change. The question is whether or not Media PCs are a desktop lifeline for the average integrator. The answer has to be 'no'. Unless you already have a consumer outlet, it will be very hard to attract new business to a new technology. The range of good-looking barebones chassis available leaves much to be desired also.
It's a different story for those with some form of outlet, or net presence, and who can still exploit the snail-like reactions of the bigger brands. The bigger brands have been so slow, there is an opportunity.
Integrators have always been first to market with new technologies and there's no reason they can't do it with Media PCs. Bigger integrators such as Elonex, Hi-Grade and Medion are already off and running. As long as your PC doesn't look anything like a PC, you stand a fighting chance of actually making some money out of desktops.
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