Analysis

What the shift in business PC landscape means for IT

Cliff Saran

The PC market in Western Europe is changing, which could transform the way businesses procure PCs.

The latest PC market share data from Gartner shows Acer grew 15.3% to become western Europe's second biggest PC supplier. Asus grew 42.3% and took third place. Dell’s market share fell 13%, to 8.7%.

While Dell is trying to develop its enterprise services arm, and HP, the world's biggest PC supplier, tries to convince everyone it is still a PC company, other suppliers are vying to take market share.

IT consumerisation is driving more people to bring their own devices to work, but, in its Charting the rise of bring your own technology report, analyst firm Forrester Research says it does not expect bring your own device to work (BYOD) schemes to be mainstream in business until 2014. In the meantime IT departments will continue to supply and replace PCs to the business. 

As June 2014, the end of support date for Windows XP, looms businesses are ramping up their next Windows upgrade. The majority are likely to opt for Windows 7, but some may hold out until Windows 8. However, whichever Windows operating system (OS) they chose, aging desktops and laptops that may be four or five years old, will need to be replaced.

For IT directors contemplating a PC refresh, the market is evolving. Dell, Toshiba or HP are no longer automatic choices. And IT consumerisation is pushing the likes of Apple to the fore. Apple is at number five in the UK, but only really targets consumers, and those people who bring their own MacBooks to the office, while companies such as Asus want a piece of the consumer action.

Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner, said: “Asus excelled at diversifying its product portfolio, which includes mobile PCs and desk-based PCs, and it is now expanding into ultrabooks and tablets, all of which are at attractive prices.” 

However, Asus does not target businesses in the UK but sells to consumers. If BYOD schemes come to fruition IT departments may see people using their Asus devices for work.

Then there is Lenovo, with the heritage it acquired with the IBM PC business in 2005. It is the fifth largest PC maker in western Europe, and is very much business-focused.

Lenovo appears to be going from strength-to-strength in the business PC market.

Gianfranco Lanci, head of Lenovo Europe, said in western Europe the company is much stronger in the commercial sector than the consumer market, winning large enterprise and global accounts: "Our whole focus is in pharmaceutical, telecommunications and manufacturing.” 

Before he joined Lenovo in April 2012, Lanci was formerly CEO and president of Acer. He aims to drive Lenovo to becoming a top three PC company in Europe by 2013.

“All our growth is coming from desktop and notebook PCs. In the UK, from April to June we grew 44%, in spite of the market shrinking. We are taking share from all the main PC makers," he said. 

However, Acer seems like the company to watch, for IT directors looking for a viable alternative to the usual suspects when replacing corporate PCs.

Acer’s strategy is very much to become a major business PC supplier, said Neil Marshall, the company's UK managing director.

He said Acer has a strong business presence in a number of European countries which it wants to emulate in the UK. “In Germany and Italy, Acer has a very large footprint in the B2B space. Since I came on board last November, my focus has been to re-establish this in the UK.”

Acer was a technology provider for the London 2012 Olympics where it provided 13,500 desktops; 2,900 notebooks; 950 servers and storage systems and a number of tablet PCs. The IT provided by Acer was used to run the entire information system for the event.

“Wherever you went in the Olympics Park, it was totally Acer,” said Marshall. “The Olympics was the biggest greenfield IT site in Europe. If we could deliver for [Games organiser] Locog then why can’t we deliver to your business?”

Marshall said Acer has traditionally been strong in the education sector. And since it is on the government procurement service's IT hardware framework agreement, Acer can potentially provide PCs for the public sector.

According to Marshall, the other main PC suppliers have “taken their eye off the ball.” As a result, he is ramping up Acer's efforts in the small business market. He said, “We are doing a lot in distribution to increase the number of resellers.”

But in spite of this effort, Acer's latest financial results showed stalled sales, due to competition from the iPad and Lenovo.

If the experts are right, there is likely to be one more refresh of business PCs before BYOD goes mainstream, which puts companies like Acer and Lenovo in a strong position. With BYOD, IT departments will not want to support every conceivable device employees choose to use. Some experts predict staff will be given an allowance, which will cover hardware and first line hardware support. Traditional PC resellers may be best placed to provide this support, as it is not realistic to expect high street retailers to ramp up their technical expertise and develop hardware support service level agreements.


Picture Credit: Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Thinkstock


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