Proof businesses are beginning to spend again for new technology came last week when Intel reported record Q2 sales. Figures included strong sales for its Atom processors, indicating companies are once again buying new computers, especially laptops.
Companies may have delayed as long as possible. At its Worldwide Developer Conference this week Microsoft reported that the average age of today's PC is 4.4 years old ― close to what many experts consider to be a 5-year maximum life for computers ― a fact that will force PC purchases as the economy slowly comes out of its slump.
"In the professional PC market, the aging life of PCs will drive replacements. Organizations will find it tougher to further extend PC life cycles without incurring more costs," said Ranjit Atwal, principal research analyst at Gartner, Inc. "Larger businesses expect to start replacements in the second half of 2010, with the majority replaced in 2011."
Aging hardware is not the only reason businesses are feeling the pressure to replace their machines. Older computers are unlikely to support newer operating systems. Microsoft is pushing hard for Windows 7 adoption, and in its blog urged holdouts to "move full speed ahead with deploying Windows 7 today."
But IT professionals are a cautious lot. Dale Edwards, vice president of Information Technology for iMed Group, a medical technology company with about 150 employees based in Houston told BusinessNewsDaily, "When you go from XP to 7, the underlying hardware requirements go up. When we start receiving documents we can't read, I'll be forced to upgrade. Until then, I'll continue to buy replacements and install XP."
Even if the hardware is working, support for an old machine's operating system will be phased out. If your company never made the transition to Vista and is still using XP, your computers are part of the world's 74 percent of work computers on the nine-year-old system scheduled to lose Microsoft support.
While businesses tenaciously hold onto their XP machines, Microsoft continues its XP phase-out. XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) support was terminated Tuesday, and SP3 is scheduled for retirement in 2014, marking the end of XP support, and making out-of-date machines vulnerable to security threats.
Limited downgrade options
Currently, Microsoft allows companies to downgrade operating system licenses with the purchase of new hardware―trading a Windows 7 license for XP or Vista―but how long this option will be available is unknown.
Microsoft reversed its decision to end user downgrades with the release of SP1 for Windows 7, saying in its blog: "Customers who purchase Windows 7 PCs with end user downgrade rights as provided in the software license terms will be able to downgrade to Windows XP Professional on those PCs for the life of the PC."
Microsoft reminded PC owners that XP support would still end on April 30, 2014.
The bottom line
Whether by hardware failure or software obsolescence, you will have to replace your computers. New computers offer faster speeds with multiple core processors, better graphics for handling video, improved energy efficiency, new connectivity options and a better user experience with widescreen LCD displays.
New hardware will open the door to software innovation, including programs designed exclusively for more powerful 64-bit systems. Even XP fans can make the move to Windows 7 and use its XP mode for tried and true programs that are not compatible with 7, allowing the company to avoid a potentially costly mixed system environment.
A study by San Jose market research firm Techaisle earlier this year estimated that in a 5-computer business with two old computers and three less than 3 years-old, the business could save $1500 in the first year by replacing the two older machines―a combination of reduced downtime and lower maintenance costs―enough to buy two new laptops and take the office to lunch.
- Review: Business Computers
- IT on the Cheap: Simple Solutions for Small Business Owners
- Free PCmover Helps Businesses Upgrade to Windows 7
- Microsoft Office 2010: What to Expect from the New Software
Leslie Meredith is Senior Writer for TechNewsDaily, a sister site to BusinessNewsDaily.