Recession-bred PC diet may become permanent

Surveys show plans to buy fewer PCs, keep them around longer

One of the most noticeable IT impacts of the Great Recession -- at least if you're an IT vendor -- was that end-user companies stopped replacing all their PCs every three to five years.

They didn't stop altogether, just stretched out the time between refreshes from somewhere around three years to more like four or five.

Studies from IT distributor CDW and IT reclamation and recycling company Redemtech imply that stretch might become permanent.

After a rush of PC buying that fuelled a burst of optimism and comparative wealth in the PC business earlier in the year ("satisfying pent-up demand" is the way both vendors and analysts described it), PCs are the No. 1 item on the list of things end users will delay buying next year, the CDW report said.

Combine that with a survey from Gartner that the iPad and other tablets will cannibalize as much as 30 percent of PC sales during 2011.

Semiconductor sales won't exactly dip, but at a growth rate of 5 percent, will shine far less brightly than they did with a growth rate of 32 percent in 2010, according to market researchers iSuppli.

That implies more of a dip than just the replacement of a bunch of laptops with tablets; it could also mean longer lifecycles for companies planning to move to smartphones, virtual desktops or tablets for significant numbers of their end users.

Or it could just be that after three years of keeping their noses against the candy store window, end users who got a little cash this year went hog wild.

It might take them a little while to digest all the new stuff and figure out whether they eventually go back for more, or if they'll listen to their aching stomachs and go gorge on something else the next time. Like, maybe Apples.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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