Jon Collins, originally published on CRN

Spring is almost here and many feel 2010 will be better than 2009. While UK Plc may have merely whimpered with relief, at 0.1 per cent growth, other areas such as recruitment figures are also positive.

However, some IT companies have definitely felt the brunt of the spending freeze. Intel shipments for last year were depressing, and many hardware vendors have done as badly.

For Microsoft, annus horribilis probably came in 2008, the year Vista became the last in a line of increasingly function-heavy, inefficiently written operating systems that relied basically on customers simply wanting to buy the next big thing.

Many organisations decided XP was good enough for them. And then came the credit crunch. Lack of desire to adopt Vista was superseded by a lack of desire to do anything at all. This offered Microsoft time to bring Windows 7 to market and get it right.

This whole sequence of events has been a welcome reminder that upgrades and desktop refresh cycles need to be for a reason. An online survey of 1,127 people we did late last year confirmed that sooner or later desktop refresh does become a necessity. Productivity and morale may decline if you hang on too long to ageing kit.

To upgrade, it boils down to costs and effectiveness in IT delivery or business operations. Our research examined the needs of ’notebook/laptop users’, ’demanding desktop users’ and ’other desktop users’ separately. Each group has different priorities, once you get beyond performance and response times.

Apps have moved on

Power users will want to be able to run the latest software while regular desktop users lean toward familiarity, for example. Familiarity is no reason to hang on, though. Imagine trying to run today’s applications on Windows 98. Apps have moved on since the introduction of XP.

A ‘bathtub’ curve illustrates the relationship between the number of faults in a system over time. At system deployment, plenty of problems occur. The number then drops quite quickly, after which follows a period of relative stability. After a while, the problems start to creep up again. Hence, the bathtub.

Desktop life is currently estimated at 3-4 years, and many organisations have allocated budgets for desktop upgrades in 2010.

Vista and the recession delayed spending plans, so quite a head of steam has built up for a tech refresh, with hotspots varying by company size and user type. Things look rosy for Microsoft, Intel, and other vendors of desktop delivery, upgrades and management.

Larger organisations are preparing to spend more than small ones. You may, however, be surprised to learn that over 20 per cent of companies with more than 5,000 employees are predicting a spend of at least a million pounds on their desktop refreshes.

The most ambitious ten per cent in companies with fewer than 10 staff think they will spend between £20,000 and £100,000 in the coming year.

Also, desktop virtualisation could in fact be a way of deferring PC purchases. Around 20 per cent of respondents in organisations with over 1,000 employees said they will consider Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) for at least some of their users.

Current market dynamics will favour those who help customers make a decision, rather than doing nothing and leaving organisations to their own devices.



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