Over the last several weeks I’ve been looking at PC sales numbers and the corporate
market appears to be in a tailspin. While the vendors seem hopeful that IT will come
roaring back next year, I’m not seeing the budgets being set this year that will allow
that to happen.
Right now IT has too much to do and too little money to do it with. New PCs just don’t
seem to be a priority.
At the same time I’m watching Apple’s release of their most business compatible
version of their OS yet. I’ve been surprised at the massive number of Apple boxes that
are showing up in corporations – that aren’t showing up (due to how they’re purchased) in
Gartner or IDC reports.
I think this means we are seeing a change in the way personal computers for business
are purchased, at least in North America. And IT (because of budget constraints) is
increasingly allowing this to happen. Clearly not in all shops but in enough that it is
driving a much healthier consumer market. It’s also creating new business opportunities
and potential problems that should be addressed.
The Shift to Personal Purchase
PCs over the last three decades have dropped from nearly $4,000 in 1980 dollars to
under $500 in 2009 dollars. When inflation is factored in, a PC today costs a small
fraction what a PC cost when corporations first started buying them for employees.
In fact, if you think about it, they are in line with the cost of some business
At the same time, IT has been overwhelmed with the pains of managing these things.
They have to hire for help desks, manage software images, handle repairs, and staff for
infrequent hardware deployments.
Over time an increasing number of companies have shifted desktop applications
targeting HR, sales, governance, and data entry back to Web-based centralized services
that don’t require a client. With a declining number of exceptions, the only desktop
application set that is still consistently on the desktop is Office.
Employees, who at one time drove upgrade cycles, now are more likely to try to prevent
them so that their workspace isn’t disrupted. Big Bang, or all at once, deployments are
exceedingly rare and with P&L responsibility drifting to the operating groups,
purchase authorization has drifted there as well. And the operating groups have, for the
last 5 or so years, not put a high priority on new PCs except for new employees.
Employees, particularly executives and younger employees, when they needed a new PC
simply bought one (generally a laptop). They used existing polices that provided for
system access from a home PC to enable them for work. For those working from home, many
have used their own PCs for years.
In addition, with the massive number of layoffs people have increasingly had to buy
their own PCs while looking for a job – and when rehired, appear willing to go on using
The cost savings is about $300 per employee per month that flows right to the bottom
line at a time when profits are elusive for many companies. You can understand why
neither the IT organization nor the line organizations that would have to fund a
replacement program are eager to fix this.
This potentially opens the door for a number of service and configuration
opportunities to surround this growing concept of employee PC ownership. The first would
be a standard virtual machine upon which a corporate image could be placed and
maintained. This would allow the employee to buy a new machine, run a configuration
utility supplied by the seller or OEM, and then download the protected and managed image
from the corporation (which then could be remotely deleted upon employee
Read the rest at Datamation.