Will you all please shut up about the death of the PC? It's confusing the customers and driving them into inertia.
"PC sales see longest decline in history." "Does the decline in PC sales indicate tablet dominance?" "Why PC sales are falling." "Intel slashes 2013 revenue outlook as PC sales decline."
Yes, yes, PC sales are falling. Now please, hush up, everyone.
Not only are these stories very unhelpful to the UK technology industry, but they're also not really true. Not in the real world of small-business land.
Admittedly, global sales of tower PCs that have been the cornerstone of every office, school and workplace for the past 20 years have been diminishing sharply, but that does not mean that everyone is replacing them with iPads.
It means they are now looking at a range of different devices from thin clients and virtual desktops to laptops, all-in-ones and ultra-portable form factor PCs. But that story isn't getting through to the people who matter: the IT buyers at SMBs.
Every professional organisation in the UK has been stunned into indecision, because they cannot reconcile what they read - "let everyone bring his or her own device", "all your staff must have a tablet", "the PC is only for incredibly un-hip companies stuck in the technology Dark Ages" - with the rather more mundane and sane reality.
Why would a call centre, an accountancy practice, a solicitors office or a telesales operation think it wise to whip away their staff's desks, install furry beanbags and give everyone a Surface? Including Maude, in accounts payable?
Even Microsoft - the doyenne of nailed-to-your-desk computing - couldn't bring itself to sell a tablet without a more or less mandatory keyboard thingy. With this, they acknowledged not only that the device is a work tool and so inevitably needs one, but that for the oppressed majority, work is done mainly at a desk. In an office, not at a sunny skate park.
Yes, Darren in the sales team would probably find an iPad really handy to impress clients, but writing isn't his strong point anyway, and he will still need a keyboard at his desk to fill in his expenses claims. The rise of the tablet in small business is an "also", and only rarely an "instead of".
This is a classic bit of media distortion - not intentionally malevolent, but it is reporting the global statistics without serious regional and sector perspective. Some companies are selling more office PCs than ever - our B2B sales are up by more than 70 per cent, and the range and variety of machines we build is also much greater than before.
The days of one size fitting every desk in the office are indeed gone, but the commercial backbone of Britain is still powered by an army of the deskbound. So until everyone becomes a remote worker or starts to type standing up, there will always be a place for a great PC, tailor-made for the job it has to do.
The only thing these articles ultimately do is create doubt in the decision makers' minds. And in a tough economy, small businesses are thinking that they'll just hang on for a bit before refreshing their old PCs.
We are hearing more stories of SMBs that have delayed desktop refreshes and now their IT is in a parlous state, with daily system crashes and a Ctrl-Alt-Delete, "just turn it off and on again" mentality not helping to oil the wheels of recovery.
The ridiculous thing is that there has never been a better time to spec your own systems, buy them on a lease, and get a great deal. There is a huge range of British-built desktop PCs that are super-good value, and every manufacturer in the country will jump at the chance of looking after new customers so the VAR will get amazing support and warranty options too.
So here's my alternative headline: "Bright and enlightened British companies are switching to British-assembled computing for awesome efficiency gains and cost savings." Don't believe the distortion and hype - tablet-schmablet, the office desktop is very far from dead.
Tim LeRoy is head of marketing at Novatech
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