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PC industry suffers as Microsoft severs link between Windows and hardware refreshes

If Microsoft succeeds, a Windows upgrade will no longer mean that businesses need to refresh their PC estate

The global PC market is set to decline by almost 1.9% over the next two years, according to Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “PC shipments will total 258 million units in 2019, a 0.6% decline from 2018,” he said. “Traditional PCs are set to decline by 3% in 2019 to total 189 million units.”

However, Gartner’s latest forecast suggests that between 2018 and 2012, sales of ultramobiles will increase by almost 20%.

Atwal said it has taken a while for the PC industry to offer compelling features such as instant on and all-day battery life on these types of device, which often have a far higher selling price than standard laptops.

He said the PC market is effectively saturated, but businesses will continue to buy mobile PCs even though the smartphone tends to be users’ primary mobile device. “A laptop is the device you use to create content,” he said.

Given that businesses will continue to provide end-users with laptop PCs, Windows 10 remains the dominant platform on which content creation-type work will run. Gartner predicted that Windows 10 will represent 75% of the professional PC market by 2021.

Windows 7 support is scheduled to end in January 2020, and for businesses, the Windows 10 migration will continue to drive a PC refresh. According to Gartner, while the US is now in the final phase of moving off Windows 7, China is still a few years away.

“By moving the Windows 10 migration to 2020, organisations increase the risk of remaining on an unsupported operating system.,” said Atwal.

“We are seeing businesses across the word migrating to Windows 10. It is a modern operating system and allows organisations to run cloud applications and provide security much more effectively.”

End of support for Windows 7

Support for Windows 7 will end in January 2020, after which organisations will have to buy a custom support contract if they want their Windows 7 systems supported. This situation mirrors the Windows XP end-of-support deadline, which occured in 2014.

“When XP support was pulled, a lot of government organisations were left on XP,” said Atwal. “They had to pay extra for support. Businesses do not want to be in this situation again, where they have to pay for one-off support of Windows 7.”

He pointed out that there is no option for organisations to skip a version because there will not be a Windows 11. “From now on, organisations will get consistent upgrades to the Windows operating system,” he said.

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So, the migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is the last time IT departments will have to take a forklift approach to upgrading their desktop operating system, said Atwal. Organisations need to move to Windows 10, or they will fall behind, he said. For instance, Microsoft has aligned the upgrades of its cloud productivity suite, Office 365, to Windows 10.

But the main benefit of Windows 10 to IT is its improved back-end management, said Atwal. “You can operate and manage Windows more effectively once you are on Windows 10,” he added.

One example is that Microsoft now manages upgrades, said Atwal. Many organisations do not have a team that is permanently set up to upgrade the Windows operating system, so embarking on a new Windows operating system upgrade is a major IT project.

Such Windows upgrade projects should become a thing of the past if organisations entrust Microsoft to update their PC estates automatically, he said.

PC refresh 

From a PC market perspective, Windows 10 disconnects the link between PC hardware and Windows operating system upgrades. Windows 10 is upgraded twice a year, which means business users will receive new operating system features every six months.

Atwal said he expected businesses to continue to upgrade PCs, but with more enterprise applications consumed as software as a service (SaaS), hardware upgrades are likely to be driven by wear and tear rather than the availability of a new PC operating system from Microsoft. “Given that the laptop is an important business tool, it will be upgraded,” he said.

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