Thursday, April 14, 2011

Slower Replacement for PCs

PC sales are down from last year, but it doesn’t mean that computers are becoming less important or that people are using them less. It is just that computers last longer than they used to.

More businesses are starting to adopt a consumer-like approach to computer hardware, replacing it only when it is well down the road to breakdown or obsolescence. Businesses still have the idea of replacing a desktop computer every three years and a portable computer after two years, but they are making more exceptions. About three fourths of computer sales are replacements for existing business PCs, so it doesn’t take much of a change in that category to bring the total sales numbers down by 3 percent.

Sales of desktop computers are down the most. That makes sense, as a computer that sits on a desk doesn’t get the wear and tear of one that is carried regularly from place to place. Wear and tear is declining slightly as computer designs become more durable, but obsolescence is declining rapidly as the computing becomes a more mature industry.

I believe business computing could start to shift to a component-replacement pattern, with a regular cycle of replacing disk drives in existing computers. The main reason a whole computer has to be replaced is to provide faster bus speeds, but in desktop computers at least, bus speeds are probably fast enough and have virtually come to a stop in the last three years. If many businesses start replacing computer components instead of whole computers, the sales figures for computers could fall significantly.