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PCs still the right choice for business, despite decline in sales, says Gartner

Android or iOS devices with keyboards are unlikely to replace Windows-based laptops and hybrids, according to analyst firm Gartner

PC shipments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea) totalled 20 million units in the third quarter of 2015, a decline of 17.4% from the same period in 2014, according to Gartner's latest PC market share data.

The analyst firm noted the negative effect of the strong US dollar on sales during the period.

"The currency devaluation and subsequent price increases of PCs continued to be a major contributor to the double-digit PC decline in Emea in the third quarter of 2015," said Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal.

"A year ago, three regions recorded a 21% growth, boosted by Microsoft's Bing promotion, while in the third quarter of 2015 all Emea regions showed significant decline."

Even though new Windows operating systems have tended to stimulate PC sales, Windows 10 devices did not make an impact on the number of shipments this time round. However, Gartner pointed out that such devices were not widely available across the Emea region in the quarter.

The decline could also be a result of Microsoft's decision to make the operating system available as a free download. From a hardware perspective, existing PCs should be able to run the new operating system, so IT departments may not see the need to upgrade PC hardware.

The popularity of tablet devices could also be behind the fall in sales. From a desktop IT perspective, the humble PC is just one of many devices people use in business to access corporate systems.

The availability of Android and iOS versions of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and Office 365 means people generally do not require a Windows laptop for basic office productivity tools. Furtermore, software-as-a-service applications such as Salesforce, Concur and Workday are also multi-platform, which means people no longer run them solely on Windows.

But, while tablets have shrunk the PC market, Atwal said he believes those users in business still using PCs are the people who really need them and PCs are still the core device in business.

He added that he expects PC makers will release a range of thin and light devices over the coming months.

At the same time, as more applications migrate to the cloud, less desktop software needs to be managed by the IT department. "Instead of managing 100% of applications, over time that is going down from 100% to 90 or 80%," said Atwal. This could help prolong the life of Windows-based PCs in business.

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