IT departments planning a PC refresh to tie in with Windows 10 can expect to pay more due to the strong US dollar.
Rising prices of desktop PCs come at a bad time for IT departments, given that many will be considering how they migrate to Windows 10, which is expected to ship in July 2015.
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Many have deferred upgrading to Windows 8, preferring to stay with Windows 7 running on PCs that may be four or five years old.
In many ways, the five–year–old Windows 7 operating system (OS) has become a de facto standard for business PCs. But from January 2015 it moved from mainstream support to extended support in Microsoft's product lifecycle roadmap.
Windows 7 will be supported by Microsoft until 2020, but now that Windows 10 is set for release, IT departments will be considering their next OS upgrade and ensuring they have the latest PC hardware.
While Windows 10 is a free upgrade for Windows 7 users, older PC hardware may not make the most of the new operating system. So IT departments need to consider how and when they upgrade, given that PC prices are rising.
Lower costs by cutting down on peripherals devices
Analyst Gartner has predicted that large businesses will extend the life of their existing PCs in 2015.
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"Large organisations will look to lengthen their PC lifetimes by six months in comparison with 2014, rather than buying less expensive models or removing requirements for key features," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
He expected businesses to attempt to reduce cost by purchasing PCs without optical drives and optional accessories.
"While we expect large organisations to cut their PC unit purchases by 20% during 2015, due to price rises, small businesses will behave like value-driven consumers and look to purchase consumer PCs instead," Atwal said.
Moving to desktop virtualisation
Any major PC refresh gives CIOs a chance to rethink desktop IT. Desktop virtualisation is being used by IT departments to improve desktop manageability, support bring your own device (BYOD) and tablet computing and potentially lower IT costs.
It is not necessary to buy a thin client access device to run desktop virtualisation. Legacy PCs can be re-used, potentially saving IT departments the cost of a PC upgrade. But the real benefit is it can extend the Windows desktop computing environment in a controlled manner across multiple devices.
By 2016, Gartner expects tablet sales to overtake sales of desktop PCs, which means IT departments will need to support Android tablets and iPads along with Windows devices.
Given that Windows-based PCs are not the only devices used by businesses, IT administrators need to consider how to give business users access to Windows applications across multiple devices.
One example is Dr Martens, the footwear company, which has used Parallels 2xRas to provide 650 employees with access to core business applications and data. The configuration virtualises applications and enables IT to configure and manage service levels for users, as well as centralise data and provide secure access to internal systems.
Desktop virtualisation is also being expanded to offer a replacement for high-end engineering workstations in an attempt to show that the technology can be deployed in demanding computing application areas.
Dell recently unveiled an independent software supplier-certified virtual workstation appliance, the Dell Precision Appliance for Wyse, which it claims can offer virtualised workstation-class computing. The product has been certified to run Siemens PLM.
Among the challenges for the CIOs considering introducing desktop virtualisation is that it requires collaborations across different parts of the IT department.
In the Forrester report Build digital workspace delivery systems to give employees the right tools for their jobs, analyst David Johnson warned that a server-hosted virtual desktop program requires advanced skills with hypervisors, storage and network analysis, along with knowledge of the desktop computing environment.
"It also requires close collaboration across the technology domains and a seasoned project leader who understands the computing needs of the workforce to settle debates and ensure a successful outcome," said Johnson.
Financing PC upgrades
While no CIO would willingly spend more on PCs than has originally been budgeted for, they may not have the option to defer an upgrade. Legacy PCs that are unfit for purpose will clearly need to be updated when they eventually fail.
But CIOs also have an opportunity to show that IT can offer business users the best tools for the job, by taking advantage of Windows 10 and the new range of devices that are in the pipeline. Thinner, faster, lighter hybrid Windows tablets and notebook PCs come at a premium. With Windows 10, such devices offer the potential of a far richer enterprise and consumer-friendly operating environment, compared with what is available from Android or Apple.
Leasing may be an option open to the CIO, who can plan out a desktop IT strategy to take advantage of these new Windows 10 devices. According to IDC the worldwide IT leasing and financing market is expected to reach $148.5bn this year, representing a compound annual growth rate of 4.4% from 2010-2015.
While there are arguments for and against taking a hit on new PC upgrades, the key question for the CIO remains how to stay relevant to the business in the era of IT consumerisation, where staff often introduce superior technology into the organisation. Buying lower specified PC devices may not be the best way to demonstrate that IT understands where the business wants to go.
In a world where CEOs are talking about the digitisation of business, tech-savvy organisations tend to be early adopters of new gadgets. With Windows 10 and the new devices coming along, CIOs have an opportunity to show that IT truly understands the business direction.