back to article Are the PCs all getting a bit old at your office? You're not alone

Business PC refresh cycles are set to stretch even further, according to IDC analysis - heaping more strain on vendors and channel partners. This comes against a backdrop of declining global sales of desktops and notebooks, which fell by 4.1 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively in 2012 compared to 2011. No near-term uptick …

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  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. the spectacularly refined chap

    No push to upgrade business machines anymore

    I have two machines here - a 3.2 Ghz quad core desktop that is getting on for 2½ years old now, and an Atom 2700 based ITX machine that is less than 12 months old but let's face it: in terms of performance it is comparable to a regular desktop of perhaps 6 years ago. It is still the Atom that gets by far the most use, simply because it is plenty fast enough for 99% of my use and has the attraction of being considerably quieter. The near silence is something you couldn't have got 6 years ago but for bean counting purposes it's the performance that matters and there simply isn't any need to upgrade machines of that level of performance. If they run Office and a modern web browser that's the most demanding applications covered.

    It's long been the gamers driving the PC market from a technology perspective, not business, for whom it is basically the need to run the latest version of Windows that is the usual key driver for upgrades. If you don't want the latest version of Windows, or indeed the current hardware it up to running it, that is an entire hardware upgrade cycle obliterated. When the time does come to upgrade whatever low end systems are bought are going to be so far in excess of anything actually needed, again, thanks to the gamers, that they'll be good for five or six years at least. The days of three year replacement cycles are firmly behind us.

    1. John Munyard

      Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

      Business PC's don't even need to run the latest version of Windows. They only need to run the latest version of Windows that was bug free!

      So that'll be Windows XP then :)

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

          Nasa seems to think windows is crap too:

          http://www.linux.com/news/featured-blogs/191-linux-training/711318-linux-foundation-training-prepares-the-international-space-station-for-linux-migration

      2. Dazed and Confused

        Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

        > So that'll be Windows XP then :)

        I think the situation is worse than "there is no need to upgrade" MS continual pushing out of new OSs and new versions of Office that no one actually wants is a positive disincentive to buy replacement machines. Why would you want to buy a shiny new machine when it is worse to use than the old one.

      3. Dexter

        Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

        Indeed, my work laptop still runs Windows XP. Still works fine once it gets going (it takes 20 minutes to boot up but that's mainly due to corporate bloatware - if I boot it away from work it is quite quick).

        I guess all that has happened is that PCs have been fast enough for any business purpose for the last 5 years or so, so there is no need to upgrade unless one breaks.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

        Nonsense. The tech has just gotten mature. Your old device doesn't suck so bad that you need a new one.

        This is where tablets are now.

        5 year old trailing edge PCs can still run circles around new ARM devices and do everything end users would request of them. If anything is wanting you can actually upgrade the old thing and keep it running even longer.

        A 5 year old craptacular bought-it-because-it-was-the-cheapest-thing-I-could-find-at-the-time can even keep up with more modern machines that have nothing else going for them besides poor heat dissipation and a fruity logo.

        1. Philip Lewis
          Thumb Up

          Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

          I have the oldest machine in the office. It's a Dell Precision 390 4GB. It can do everything I ask of it.

          Like every other machine in the office we swapped out the old hard disks with Intel 320 SSDs. That made everything sooooo much better. Now we can bypass a whole upgrade cycle. We all run Win7, Win8 is a disaster on wheels.

          Money saved is money earned and all that!

      2. big_D Silver badge
        Stop

        @Eadon

        No, people will buy new PCs when the old ones stop working or become too slow. As Windows 7 was faster than Vista and 8 is faster than 7 on the same hardware, there is no need for most users to update.

        Heck, my previous employer was still using Athlon XP2100+ machines with 1GB RAM 2 years ago! They were bought around 2003, but the company didn't see any need to upgrade them, they were just replaced when they stopped working - and they were replaced with Celeron and Pentium D based machines.

        1. mmeier

          Re: @Eadon

          Basically there are three reasons to replace a box:

          + Lease time (3-5 years) is over. Replace with newly leased next gen system (corporate)

          + Box died or has components failing (fans) or to small/slow (HDD) and it's "old enough" (3 years/corp, 5-7 privat non gamer)

          + User profile changes i.e more mobile and desktop gets replaced by notebook / hybrid / convertible (and maybe a docking station)

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

      I'm currently doing a large-site PC replacement, and 99.9% of the users could function perfectly satisfactorily with Word Perfect and DOS. There's only been a handful that actually *need* the capabilities of the machines we've been installing, people doing things like brochure production, GIS database manipulation, architectural planning. Everybody else is just doing glass typewriter tasks.

    4. Mikel
      Stop

      I just checked

      Apparently I can get used dual socket Xeon X64 quad-core servers for $150 each + $85 shipping. Capable of 64GB RAM and PCIe V2, VT enabled, these far surpass my needs for desktop systems unto the end of time.

    5. Philip Lewis
      Paris Hilton

      Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

      The "three year cycle", at least in countries I happen to frequent, is based on the taxation legislation, rather than any notion of longevity of the capital equipment (in this case a PC).

      Case: I bought an expensive piece of kit for my business. It died a fiery death 13 months later, out of warranty. My attempt to write off the remaining 2/3 of the asset in the second tax year was denied by the tax dept as the depreciation of PCs is fixed by them at 3 years. The fact that it was provably dead and "unfit for purpose" had no effect on their position. I sent it back to the tax dept. with a note that I could not afford the space & storage costs for the next 2 years and that they should 'look after it for me'.

      Tax laws are the determining factor, not the product life.

      Paris: Fit for purpose to be sure!

    6. big_D Silver badge

      Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

      Most of the new business machines we sell are either Celereon or Pentium E based machines, closely followed by Atom based machines. I think probably around 5% of the machines we sold last year had a Core i processor in them.

      That also means that older machines, with Core i processors from the first generation are still more than fast enough for most purposes in an office today. Apart from graphics, CAD and a few other "high-end" tasks, you just don't need the horsepower these days. In fact, most of our developers are using Igel terminals, which run X sessions on our Linux servers or RDP onto the Windows Terminal Servers.

      I'm now using an Atom based tablet (Windows 8) and that is plenty fast enough for the tasks I need to perform. Only the odd bit of image editing or running legacy software has me running to the 2 year old Core i5 PC in the corner.

      1. mmeier

        Re: No push to upgrade business machines anymore

        Actually older (1st gen) core-i units have almost as much processing power as the current ivy bridge. The integrated GPU is slower, the consume a tad more power and support (if at all) only older versions of WIDI (and maybe some hybernate modes).

        All more important in mobile devices where the extra GPU speed is useful (okay post AERO this has gotten better) and the new WIDI (and Miracast) options can be very useful in presentations. Depending on what they deliver from the promisses the next gen core-i (Haswell) might be a good enough reason to upgrade mobile units (That and Baytrail are the reasons I am currently not buying a new unit - let's wait for what those offer)

  3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Fallacy

    Traditional computers maker were caught out by the shift in the market to tablets and other portable systems; in 2012 fondleslab shipments grew 78.4 per cent and smartmobes climbed 46.1 per cent.

    I don't believe the (negative) correlation implies causation. Portable systems are filling a need that didn't really exist before they did. Desktop replacement cycles have extended because the processing requirements of the business applications that run on these machines have stopped leap-frogging machine resources. This isn't likely to change again.

    1. Stuart 22
      FAIL

      Re: Fallacy

      Absolutely. We are an IT outfit. Updating websites and running SSH doesn't take a lot of grunt. We are 50/50 XP/Kubuntu. When XP is retired next year then why should we be forced to buy new kit to win Win 8 and have to relearn/relicense stuff that is of no discernible benefit?

      Going 100% Kubuntu looks easier. Only takes 30 mins to re-load and no more re-activation issues. Wow, MS seems to pushing us that way ...

      1. dave 93
        Boffin

        Re: Fallacy

        A virtual machine XP-in-a-box is the future! Clone your old machine and run it on a secure platform .

        Linux could finally invade the desktop, as a secure VM babysitter for a legacy powerhouse!

        Now, if you could 'slide' the OS and hypervisor (whatever) on to a system, so XP and the user didn't even know, you might have a serious business opportunity. The Window of opportunity is there.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Fallacy

        Kubuntu is cool. It's quick on an old 1Ghz atom.

    2. lightknight

      Re: Fallacy

      Who is going to write a ground-breaking application for a business machine, when the target market is still using Windows XP, IE 6, and single-core processors?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fallacy@Kubla Cant

      "the processing requirements of the business applications that run on these machines have stopped leap-frogging machine resources. This isn't likely to change again."

      I'd agree with most of your post, but forecasting no further changes in the "desktop" space is a very bold call.

      And there's other business changes that are afoot that will continue to reduce the need for PC's in their current guise. So call centre operatives only need a thin client machine, not the full fat (if basic) desktop that many companies specify because they always have done. And the finance and HR functions in many big corporates are being brutally cut back out of necessity, but what those companies are finding is that with only one third the number of support staff you achieve much the same useful outputs. In my company, 450 finance professionals have been whittled down to 150 or so. And it wasn't that the people were no good, it was that the business had grown used to having ten million reports, to having their own process errors being corrected by somebody else, and to having ad hoc queries handled immediately. The business still would like that, but it isn't prepared to pay for that luxury any more, and it has found that the simplified organisation on balance works rather better. Not as lean as an owner-managed business certainly, but moving that way.

      So my 14,000 employee business of a few years ago is now around 10,000. Half of those posts that have gone were laptop or desktop PC users, so that's 2,000 PC's we won't be replacing. And if the company wise up to thin clients, then that'll be another 5,000 PC's we won't be buying.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fallacy

      Agree, I would say that PC refreshes lagging has less to do with people using tablets instead of PCs and more to do with the fact that there is no need to upgrade. 10-15 years ago, you needed to upgrade every three years or the new software would not work on the old PCs. Now you can run every application you want to run on a five year old PC without issue. The CPUs and memory amounts have outpaced the software's need for them. As most of the apps have gone server side through a browser, increasingly all that is required of PCs is enough spec to turn a basic OS, a NIC and open a browser.... It is kind of annoying because most PCs, at the hardware durability level, were not meant to be used for 4-5 years even if the CPU, memory spec is sufficient.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fallacy

        @AC 21:01

        This might be why the business is shifting to Lenovo. The Think-branded products are one of the few ranges that have been engineered for more than 5 years life (OK, probably engineered for 3 travelling drinking salesman years, about 10 years to the rest of us).

        I'd be interested to know know how much business Lenovo is picking up on Think-branded products vs. their consumer gear which is nothing special (although they still have nice keyboards).

        Tonight I've been tracing a fault on a friend's budget ThinkPad, and compared to the usual "friend computer" it was so easy - download service manual, follow instructions, look up part number of failed part, go shopping.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fallacy

          I used to work at a site where we had 100+ of those "traveling drinking salesmen", except they were traveling drinking engineers working in the shit holes of the planet - internet? what's that! we equipped them with sat-phones sometimes. Power was hard to come by sometimes which was hardly surprising since we built PGSs.

          The IBM thinks were the only things that could cut the mustard. Attempts with other brands ended in dismal destruction and failure. I expect Lenovo has understood this and continues to produce reliable long lasting kit.

    5. K Silver badge

      Re: Fallacy

      Completely agree.

      I would even go further and say there is no justification to upgrade - Hardware just has not really improved for desktops or laptops. If manufacturers want me to part with my cash, they need to get more innovative. I f*cking hate Apple, but at least they try something new and not punting the same sh*t year after year!

    6. Steve Brooks

      Re: Fallacy

      It appears more to me that devices like tablets are filling a niche that existed but was never catered to adequately. I always explain it to my customers thusly, a good percentage of my customers just want email, facebook and web browsing, in the 90's they HAD to buy a desktop, no tablets, laptops out of price range etc. In the 2000's they had a choice, reasonable priced laptops or a desktop, still, either of these provided far more funcionality than they ever used.

      It's 2013, many kids now use their mobile phones for facebook, email and web browsing...oh and shopping, texting, taking photo's, sending said photo's to latest flame etc etc, a series of functions that once used to require at least 2, if not 3 seperate devices. Tablets and smart phones now fill a niche that already existed but was catered to by inadequate equipment, it was a no brainer at least for me to see that tablets/smartphones would usurp laptops/desktops in a significant percentage of cases, thus leading to lower PC sales.

    7. ColonelClaw
      Facepalm

      Re: Fallacy

      "This isn't likely to change again."

      Tin foil hat on, how about this for a possible future:

      Microsoft makes money from people buying a new PC with Windows and/or Office. Everyone knows PC sales are tanking, for the many reasons stated above and below. Microsoft then makes the next version of Office and/or Windows massively compute-heavy, thus forcing PCs to become obsolete faster (like the good old days). Ker-ching!

      Hmm, I just read what I wrote, and actually that's pretty much exactly what they tried with Vista.

    8. mmeier

      Re: Fallacy

      Actually the needs existed (as did tablet pc) for a decade before iPads. The technology is only now reaching the needed capabilities in processing power, battery duration and sturdy, fast data storage. Not to mention mobile data networks - less than a decade ago mobile data was slow and costly.

      This has kept those units "specialist maschines" and costly. Having HP, IBM and FSC as the only manufacturers and Wacom as the only digitizer did not help.

      The iOS/Android units are an intermediat step between those older units and the "new breed" of Atom (Baytrail) and core-i (Haswell) units we will see later this/early next year that can do "all the jobs" (desktop, notebook, tablet) on one device (Convertible or likely Hybrids). No matter what OS as long it is "one for all uses of the device"

  4. Captain DaFt

    Congratulations PC makers!

    You've finally achieved your goal; Desktops have become a necessary appliance!

    Unfortunately, appliances aren't "shiny".

    Nobody dumps their old stove, washing machine, etc., just to get the latest model adorned with all the newest bells and whistles, they use it until it breaks, then replace it.

    Now here's the part Microsoft doesn't get; When an appliance is finally replaced, people look for one that's like their old one, because *nobody* wants a new stove that forces them to relearn how to boil water!

    1. henrydddd

      Re: Congratulations PC makers!

      In the early days of personal computing, upgrade's were often made every 2 or 3 years because the performance gains were dramatic. I remember upgrading from my 286 to a 386. My 286 had MS-Dos 6.22. I had a hard time playing music on it, the ASCII games were stupid, and the internet was shell based. On the other hand, the 386 had a graphical interface (Windows 3.10), could play MP3's with ease, and the games were a whole lot more fun (Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, etc)

      Now, I am writing this post on a 10 year old computer with a 3 Ghz P4 HT processor. I have a friend who has a computer with an 6 core i7, 32 gig DDR3 ram, and guess what? Almost 100 percent of what I do works equally well on both. Newer games work better on his, but Youtube comes through just fine.

      In the corporate world, for the most part, existing systems work just fine. To upgrade would often provide fewer benefits and the conversion between the old system and new system would be expensive. In other words, if it ain't broke, why fix it. I think this is why corporations are very reluctant to upgrade

      1. Darryl

        Re: Congratulations PC makers!

        Yep, why should I replace all of these Core2 and Core2Duo machines I have here with new ones? It's not like the users are going to notice significant improvements in Word and Outlook.

        What I WILL do is replace the spinning iron inside them with SSDs, which makes a measurable difference, and costs a LOT less than all new PCs. Maybe a memory upgrade here and there too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Congratulations PC makers! @Darryl

          "What I WILL do is replace the spinning iron inside them with SSDs, which makes a measurable difference, and costs a LOT less than all new PCs. "

          I thought this. But not all older LGA775 motherboards play nicely with SSD's, so things like recover from sleep or unexpectedly fast responses can lock your machine good and proper - this is what forced me to upgrade my home machine to a nice shiney i5, after trying an SSD upgrade. Also, on a machine of the age of a C2D it is feasible for an HDD to use most of the bus capacity of the mainboard chipset, so the fact that both motherboard and drive boast a 1.5 Gb/s SATA interface is irrelevant, and the gain of an SSD is dramatically reduced. Certainly a visible difference between the SSD in my C2D machine and the new i5, which I don't attribute to the CPU.

          This is one of the little quirks of longer replacement cycles, that the legacy hardware is increasingly less likely to be compatible with the latest hardware. Another more mundane example is the fast declining availability of older memory, such that DDR3 is now half the price of the DDR2 likely to be compatible with your C2D machines. The same applies if you're unlucky enough to have IDE drives, where you'll be paying the same for a 160Gb drive as a 1 Gb SATA drive.

          Ekeing out a well specced 2007 vintage machine might make sense, but the upgrades won't make the PSU or MB last any longer, so the relatively high cost of such legacy upgrades need to be considered against the likely lifespan they will confer.

          Given that a basic business grade laptop (Intel i3) could be bought for £300 to £400, and circa £50 to upgrade the memory on your C2D, plus £100 for an SSD (not in the basic laptop admittedly), you'll have spent almost half the price on a largely less capable desktop, whereas buying the laptop and a docking station enables you to use existing monitors and keyboards easily? Or £430 for a brand new i5 tower and a 20" monitor?

          1. nichomach
            Happy

            Re: Congratulations PC makers! @Ledswinger

            I'm on board with *some* of what you say, but I think you're glossing over a couple important practicalities. £300-£400 business laptops typically don't have proper docking connectors (we're looking at Dell Vostros or HP Probook S machines) and thus would need something like generic USB docks (which I've used and some are OK). Some support external monitors, some don't, but typically you're looking at another hundred or so for those that do (or do adequately) - and these require the user to use their laptop's PSU, plug in a USB lead also, perhaps a network cable (although the Kensingtons we've been using have built-in networking), and generally do not work with the laptop's own video adapter (which can result in reduced graphics performance). Also, if you're running a big screen, it'd be handy if that dock were the USB3 version and your laptop supported USB3. A laptop that supports a proper docking solution is generally north of £450 ex VAT, the docking stations themselves (with built-in power supply, NIC and video out from the laptop's video adapter) are frequently north of £90 for a basic dock, another £90 for a monitor stand and so on - the costs mount up (I am assuming that one already has a monitor). Conversely, I have upgraded well-specced laptops that were three, four, even 5 years old, that work with docking stations that we already have and the users have been delighted with the effects of the £130 I spent doing so. I would also note that if one's now buying cheap machines you have to factor in a shorter lifespan for those as well.

            1. WatAWorld

              Re: Congratulations PC makers! @Ledswinger

              Why do you need a docking station for your laptops?

              Surely your people will get used to the laptop screen and keyboard. At work they can connect to peripherals via the LAN and at home via a USB hub.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Congratulations PC makers! @WatAWorld

                "Surely your people will get used to the laptop screen and keyboard. At work they can connect to peripherals via the LAN and at home via a USB hub."

                Well, that's something my employers tried. Everybody sensible griped about the crap laptop screens, and we had to go and buy proper screens and docking stations to boot. The problems with laptop-users-in-desk-mode is the blighters keep breaking sockets and plugs if they have to plug in a keyboard, a mouse, a network cable, a charger and a screen, whereas a docking station is quicker, easier and more robust.

                To be fair, the challenge a couple of posts ago that docking stations aren't made for cheapo laptops is broadly speaking correct, and I doff my cap accordingly, although as a desktop replacement you would already have a monitor.

      2. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Congratulations PC makers!

        Youtube needs a core duo, a 3GHZ HT does SD, but fails at HD sadly. I agree with the rest of the post though. :)

        1. Jes.e

          Re: Congratulations PC makers!

          It's not the hardware. It's the OS..

          Interestingly enough, my 1.7 GHz Samsung arm Chromebook will not only play HD YouTube videos perfectly; it can also be attached to a 1080p flat screen TV and display the video smoothly and without any effort.

          My (retired) 400 MHz white Macintosh with the default low end video card and no fans on the video *or* cpu could silently and smoothly play DVDs while doing processor intensive tasks like (slowly) converting a video file in the background.

          I won't even go into what BeOS could do..

          A question for readers is how fast a XP PC do you need to play a DVD?!?

          In other words, how low can you go?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Congratulations PC makers!

            I'm using a Dell Celeron 2.8GHz WinXP which plays DVDs without any problems.

          2. dajames Silver badge

            Re: Congratulations PC makers!

            A question for readers is how fast a XP PC do you need to play a DVD?!?

            In other words, how low can you go?

            I have a low-end Acer netbook with a 1.3GHz Atom Z520 (with 1366x768 screen, so the exercise isn't entirely pointless) and with an external USB DVD player that can play a DVD. I'm using Ubuntu on it, but it was supplied with XP so I suppose it counts as an "XP PC"?

            1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
              Linux

              Re: Congratulations PC makers!

              I've played DVDs (in VLC) on an 800MHz Gateway desktop (Essential 800) dating from 2001, with 256Mb RAM. Granted, this was in Bodhi Linux (based on Ubuntu) but it could also run XP acceptably.

      3. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Congratulations PC makers!

        I have a beef with some of your comments:

        - ASCII (text mode) games are not necessarily any more stupid than graphical.

        - 286 and earlier had several different GUIs available, including Windows 3.1

        - 386's couldn't play MP3's with ease. Not Even Close.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Congratulations PC makers!

          He might have been using wav files. I'm not sure how he got these or how he could fit them on his FD/tiny HD. It is possible, but I smell BS. I doubt the poster even used a 386 much less a 286. I could be wrong though. He might have been an early x86 multimedia proponent. (snicker)

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Congratulations PC makers!

            Back in the Mid '90s (around the time of the Pentium 90), I looked after some older IBM PS/2 Model 80s, which had 25MHz 386DX processors (they really were cutting edge at one time). I also had access to OS/2 running on various systems.

            IIRC, there was a dancing animals (birds and monkeys) video shipped with OS/2 Warp that I managed to run on the PS/2s (AIX PS/2 with xanim ported, again IIRC). It was pretty low resolution, and the extension was .avi, although I don't know what the codec was (do I still have an OS/2 Warp install CD to find out - I must check), and these systems did not have sound cards, but they were running video. If they could do compressed video, I'm sure they would have been able to do MP3 audio.

      4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Congratulations PC makers!

        No, your 386 was unable to play mp3.. not enough processing power!!

        You needed at least a 486 DX, and if the Mhz where low, most MP3 players skipped, etc.

        My main computer is also old.. a 2 core 2GB machine...

    2. lightknight
      Mushroom

      Re: Congratulations PC makers!

      Heh. Well, it's what they wanted...be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

      Consider Dell, for the moment. This is good, hold on. Got one of these postcards in the mail from them (I used to recommend them, long time ago); for $299.99, I can get an Inspiron 15.6" laptop with an Intel Celeron processor, Windows 8, 4 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB HD. Now, after you've stopped laughing at those specs, let's talk about what's wrong with this offer: Everything!

      Let's see here. Windows 8, highly controversial, yet strangely the least unpalatable part of that offer. Intel Celeron processor...something of a mystery, with no model mentioned...and it's a Celeron...kind of chasing the bottom of the market there. 4 GBs of RAM...on a Windows 8 machine....I don't know if that's sad or funny...especially considering the laughable price of RAM these days. A 320 GB HD...might even be 7200 RPMs...which is really not useful for anything more than bottom of the barrel storage / performance (well, assuming it's 7200 RPMs, that would be about middling performance) these days. It's basically the cheapest machine they can produce, can barely run Windows...and will probably crash / fall apart under any kind of load. Probably not very upgradeable either.

      Now, compare this to the laptop that is actually sitting on my desk. An HP Envy 17...complete with a real video card, 2 drive bays plus some room for a mSATA device...optical drive....i7....16 GBs of RAM....Windows 7....and it cost me probably less than $2K. Oh, a 240 GB SSD, and a 1 TB 7200 RPM HD. And so on.

      Dell's entire flier here is built around cheapness. They can never upsell their customers (who buy Apple, I guess, when they want something nicer) because their product line is crap. I looked at their desktop line yesterday, the Inspirons, and the higher-end model seemed to max out at 12 GBs of RAM. This is a desktop, mind you. My desktop is maxed out at 32 GB of RAM. What more, every minor upgrade on Dell's website is a money soak. Want a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate instead of Windows 7 Home Premium? That'll be $180...the exact cost of an OEM copy of Windows 7 Ultimate from Amazon / Newegg. Want a printer? It will have last decade's features, and bleed ink. It's all crap. Purely the razor blade model to doing things.

      And after a while of using low-end crap, where every minor performance upgrade costs a ton and delivers little, of course the customer is going to rebel, and only buy the bottom of the barrel crap! They've never driven a Porsche, do how the f*ck are they going to know it's better than the Lada they're currently driving?

      The reason tablets are competitive with laptops / desktops, or so the marketing types think, is because the laptops / desktops that people have been buying / have been allowed to buy / are forced to buy are such crap, they are actually competitive in terms of performance! Drop the bottom of the barrel PC lines, mandate use of SSDs, and shoot anyone who thinks that continuously dropping features is the way of the future.

      1. AJ MacLeod

        @lightknight

        That Dell is pretty much exactly what the average office/Office user wants and needs (well - barring Windows 8, but there's not a lot of choice there now.) RAM is very cheap, but, like Win 7, Windows 8 runs perfectly well in 4Gb of RAM. The 320Gb HDD is never, ever going to be more than a third full and whilst horrifically unreliable and a bit slower than an SSD it's probably not THAT much more unreliable. These people don't really want a Porsche - what's the point if nobody else is going to see it and they're not into "cars" (read computers) anyway? They just want as cheap a machine as possible which will do the basics.

        On the other hand, the HP Envy (certainly the model I've been dealing with over the past year or two) has to been one of the most unreliable bits of junk I've seen in a long time, far worse than the usual fraction-of-the-price Asus/Acer fodder! Oh, and much more difficult to get parts for...

      2. WatAWorld

        @lightknight Re: Congratulations PC makers!

        1. This is an article about mainstream business computers and only outside workers are going to be using laptops, in other words a tiny minority.

        2. Have you ever looked at how much of your 32 GB of RAM is actually in use? Unless you are editing movies or TV or doing large scale CAD/CAM you are wasting money and driving up power consumption for no reason.

        3. $2,000 is more than double what a good price is for a business laptop.

        4. Tablet computers are useful for people walking around warehouses I suppose, but not much else in business.

        1. mmeier

          Re: @lightknight Congratulations PC makers!

          Before the year ends I will likely pay 2000€ for a convertible with 16 GB and a good dock. Why? One box for all. Tablet mode for "on the move", notebook for editing and ducked for serious programming with 2-3 monitors. 166B because good IDE and the appserver/db for local testing likes memory and because it is cheap. High cost because I want a user serviceable system AND because I want long running times on batteries. So basically LenovoX2x0 series, Fujitsu 90x or maybe a "Duo13

      3. big_D Silver badge
        FAIL

        @lightknight

        That sounds like the average spec of machines our customers request (Celeron or Pentium E with 2 - 4GB RAM and a small HD).

        The machine I am writing this on is an Atom with 2GB RAM and a 64GB eMMC "drive", running Windows 8 - I am dual-heading it with the internal 11.6" display and an external 24" monitor. For the work I need to do, it is more than fast enough and the 2GB isn't a limitation for most tasks. I only use my old machine for editing graphics and maintaining our telephone exchange - the software comes out of the stoneage and only runs in XP-Mode on the old machine!

        For many users, that $299 latop will be more than they need.

        1. mmeier

          Re: @lightknight

          How does the Ativ500 work? Did they finaly get the dock working? :)

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: @lightknight

            The dock works fine.

            1. mmeier

              Re: @lightknight

              Good to hear they solved that. Was a mess with earlier units.

    3. Chris 242

      Re: Congratulations PC makers!

      Writing this on a 10+ year old Athlon 1.4L with speed stripes. No more than 768MB of horse power.

      Do I need more?

      Personally, No.

      It runs XP with office and IE8.

      I'm not a gamer or graphic intensive user PS7 is enough.

      Horses for courses, or check out BBC future article on winning the lottery/happiness.

      Apologies for the punt. The Reg is generally my only source of CDMA aquired net info

    4. rtb61

      Re: Congratulations PC makers!

      Not Quite. Each and every year the size and resolution of my display has grown, now 24". I expect the next one to come in at 27" as for the keyboard that's now illuminated, ahh, watch display in low light while being able to control computer.

      Desktops for cheap screen real estate they simply can't be beat.

      As for the percentage of smart phones, it really doesn't count when those numbers are in addition to. rather than instead of. Notebook certainly ate into desktops but now the push is for three devices.

      Desktop is back for screen real estate, smart phone for mobile communications and that leaves device number three and that's controlled by the keyboard.

      That excluded the biggest chunk of screen real estate the big screen TV, finally a logical use for a cheap tablet.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Analysts

    About as useful as Anal Cysts... I can make an Excel macro that would be better at forecasting.

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Having no effect on my behaviour

    I replaced one of my machines at home a few months ago with a more powerful one, but then re-purposed the old one to replace an even older one. I have no practical need for a tablet device so haven't bought one.

    I would make the point that I use both for work-related stuff as well as 'domestic'.

    1. JeffyPooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Having no effect on my behaviour

      Will Godfrey: "I have no practical need for a tablet device so haven't bought one."

      I'm struggling to parse this sentence. It makes no sense, unless we allow the preposterous premise that purchasing decisions for consumer electronics need to be somehow related to a "practical need". Obviously that's not a feasible explanation, so it must be a typo.

      "I have no practical need for a tablet device so I bought one of each."

      There, I fixed it for you.

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: Having no effect on my behaviour

        Grammar corrections often turn out to be the logical fallacy known as an "ad hominem attack", attacking the man since the argument is unassailable.

        The thing is the article under discussion is about business purchases, not consumer purchases.

        For personal electronics (and executives who use company money as if it were their own), buying the new shiny thing is a valid issue.

        But we're talking about business trends which means mainstream business purchases.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Fihart

      @ Eadon re: them damned commies at Redmond

      You make an interesting point.

      Microsoft's assumed monopoly of the desktop is a classic Command Economy business model in the Soviet tradition.

      And just as socialism produced the Trabant car made of cardboard and doorstop Zenith cameras, an OS produced on that model has little future against Demand Driven phenomena like Apple and Android.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. WatAWorld

      Re: Rejuvinate the PC market - with Linux

      Companies are not going to buy computers that require re-training unless there is a really compelling reason, and rejuvenating the PC market is not compelling.

      Besides, even if companies started buying new machines with Linux the problems is companies are not buying many new machines.

      As well, Windows has been extensively examined by black hat hackers and patched.

      You switch to Linux and you have to go through that whole process of getting rid of the bugs and security holes again (sure it is open source and any one can examine it, but there have been cases of holes being there for many years without being noticed).

      Finally, if you put Linux on your machines you risk having one of your IT staff launch a major law suit against you because you let him come into contact with Linus Torvalds and Torvalds tore a strip off him (perhaps even in public).

    3. mmeier

      Re: Rejuvinate the PC market - with Linux

      Yep, would make me feel like in my teen days again - lousy software that can barely do 80 percent of the job and with difficult to use interfaces, dozends of not fully compatible systems with a good chance that for three software packages you would need at least two different systems, almost no off the shelf commercial software that simply runs with a good ui.

      Ah, just like the good old 80s. Now while we are at it - could I have the GDR and the Red Scare back as well? Clancy/Brown/Bond novels where a lot better with a proper enemy

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

    That wasn't a HP, Dell or Lenovo! I do get to see the odd Apple, usually in the hands of a salesman who's gone independent from corporate IS but otherwise the big three PC makers have the market sewn up. As for refresh cycles, there are still plenty of corporates out there who make do with XP, so any PC maker who isn't one of the big three (who are squeezed themselves) is in for it.

    The good times rolled, and we rocked and rolled with them. Now we have austerity, and unlike the ConDemolition, the private sector is quite competent in this regard.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

      $MEGACORP supplies Fujitsu. I don't think those would sell at all outside the 'order 5000 doorstops for the troops' style of buying. A Medion would be better value for money, if it had the capital-asset-over-the-network chips, or the smartcard reader.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

        "$MEGACORP supplies Fujitsu."

        Oh, I'd forgotten about them. I've seen their desktops from time to time but honestly can't remember the last time I saw a Fujistsu laptop while visiting customers. Oh, I did recently see an elderly Alcatel in Africa (French speaking customers were not amused by my "L'ordinateur d'Ariane" comment).

        1. Philippe

          Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

          Funny that.

          I thought exactly that this afternoon in a meeting with a supplier whilst in Germany.

          The guy had a Fujitsu laptop. (Nice looking thing by the way). When I mentioned that i hadn't seen one in years.

          The guy said that they had to buy them because his company had some old capitalistic relationship with Siemens and the old Fujitsu-Siemens link was the reason.

          He really liked his laptop though and was very pleased to be "forced" to buy it.

          1. mmeier

            Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

            Fujitsu is costly and not in the "big stores" around germany, limiting their visibility. But sturdy, long lived and one of the few that is basically fully "user serviceable" and even designed that way in fine details (i.e air filters). When it comes to upper end notebooks and mobile workstations they are still the best

      2. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

        Well from what I've seen a Medion would be worse value for money as their cases won't survive being used as a doorstop. It would just disintegrate after the warranty runs out.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can't remember the last time I saw a corporate laptop

          My Medion netbook was a fantastic piece of kit that got used and abused and has been around the world with me like 10 times. I hackintoshed it though. I only retired it for a MacAir when a key went flakey. It is still my coffee table machine.

  9. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    If an office wishes to replace my PC with a tablet... It will be my cold dead hand they need to pry off the mouse before I let go!

    1. mmeier

      Depends on the tablet. Make it a T902 convertibe and you better get out of my way or I run you over in my haste to retrieve "Godjiira".

  10. keithpeter
    Linux

    Replacing an ancient workstation

    OK, I'll do my bit for the PC business.

    I'm posting this on a recycled HP xw6200 PC dating from 2005ish. Dual core Xeon but shows as four cores on i386 Linux. Can crank up to 13 Gigaflops or so (I do maths, small data but many iterations, RAM not so important) but tends to run one core only to 100% on audio transcoding. The beast is quiet though.

    What do I buy next? a chunky laptop that can run the big monitor and decent keyboard with lid closed or a mid range PC? I'd like to be able to run filters on GIMP sort of quickly and transcode audio and run a fairly repetitious R script and do a few million iterations in a horrid bit of grunge C with double precision. And it has to be relatively quiet.

    None of this secure boot crap. Must have proper video connections (VGA and DVI-D).

    1. Paul 181

      Re: Replacing an ancient workstation

      Buy a mac mini

      Quiet , fast , semi portable

      Not sure how easy it is to run Linux though

      1. JEDIDIAH
        Linux

        Re: Replacing an ancient workstation

        Are you kidding?

        A Mac Mini is expensive, slow, and unmaintainable. I have an older Mac Mini sitting collecting dust because it's not much good for running anything but Linux. Unlike an older PC, I can't really fix or improve anything on it. It's difficult to get into and back together again. I can't modernize it with a better video card or fix it's busted internal NIC. Replacing an old drive would also be an exercise in pain.

        PCs aren't as noisy or as big as they used to be. They aren't usually as tiny as a Mini but they don't really need to be. Fawning over an unmainable form factor is strictly an Apple fanboy passtime.

        Disposable PCs are great for Apple's bottom line but not much else.

  11. jason 7 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What I don't quite get is....

    ....that I see many articles on this topic from tech journos and market analysts as to why corps and companies are not buying PCs like they were 10 years ago.

    To them it all seems a big mystery yet we all know the reason and its been mentioned several times in this thread alone.

    The kit matured for business (and most of the domestic market) the minute dual core CPUs were introduced.

    Why do they continue to write this stuff? PCs are still necessary, not many businesses will be tossing 90% of their computing kit in a skip any time soon. Its just that that old IBM 2GB desktop with the 2Ghz C2D in it is good for another rebuild or two for the new guy in Accounts.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am posting this on an Apple G5 tower. I have no desire to replace it. (Especially with the existence of TenFourFox).

    The place I work at has been purchasing second user machines of the same model that they bought about 5 years ago.

    A very sensible policy. No driver issues, simple support does the job required. I suspect were the same model available new they would chose new in preference. An XP licence is on each case.

  13. James Turner

    Reason to upgrade...

    Power consumption anyone?

    I upgraded from a Athlon64 X2 4200 last year to a Core i5 3550. The old system used to idle at 100W (measured at the wall). The new one is less than 50W.

    Newer machines won't be quite that dramatic a difference, but there are still some savings that can be made by replacing older desktops.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reason to upgrade...

      This is one of the only reasons I upgrade workstations/CPUs. When it comes to laptops, it's usually battery life. They have been getting much better. My new Asus has almost as much batter life as my 6 year old Panasonic. Asus ~ 400USD. Panasonic ~ 1'400USD. I'm a happy camper, as my requirements have not risen. The thing about the Panasonic is I can drop it and sit on it. I don't think the Asus would stand up to that much abuse.

  14. John Savard Silver badge

    Amiga 500

    I'm just amused that the headline for the article was illustrated by a picture of a really old computer, an Amiga 500.

  15. croc

    Tablet-Top Publishing?

    Would someone please ask IDC how many of its reports detailing the demise of the desktop PC were written on a tablet? Or how much of the data that was crunched to make these reports was crunched on a smartphone?

    My bold prediction: Businesses will like BYOD, flexi-scheduling, work-from-home right up to the point in time when they don't like it. Business tends to not be really innovative in

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not how big it is, it's how well you use it!

    I have two desktops at work, one runs Windows and the other runs Linux. The Windows PC has been replaced three times in the last 4 years but the Linux box ( a basic HP DuoCore2 ) is the same as when I got it just over three years ago, the only thing done to it is the memory went up to 4GB from 2GB and I scrounged an extra 320GB HD. The Windows7 box, a quad-core that I was given about 6 months ago has 8GB and a single 320GB just for me to run Outlook, IE for the corp intranet stuff, plus some Word/Excel when needed.

    The Linux box is in use 95% of the day, it even happily runs a LAMP stack in the background and occasionally some VMs to test stuff, all on a meagre 4GB of memory, it copes so until smoke billows out the back of it's fan ports I'm happy with it. Why waste money and resources on some office willy-waving contest to prove how big your desktop box is?

  17. localzuk

    Correlation != Causation

    A 3 year old Core 2 Duo is a good machine. The processor is highly capable, the RAM is fast enough etc... Businesses won't be replacing them with Core i* processor machines because there is no benefit to it.

    Even a 5 year old C2D machine is perfectly fine for most business work. Why replace things that work perfectly well?

    Tablets are *additional* devices. No normal office worker can or will switch their entire computer requirements from a desktop or laptop PC to a tablet. It just isn't practical.

  18. ForthIsNotDead
    Meh

    No need to upgrade your machine

    Just upgrade the hard disk. I recently upgraded my 5 year old Toshiba Tecra (which only has a lowly 4GM of RAM - maxed out) with an 128GM SSD drive. The difference is like night and day. Absolutely incredible.

    Why do we need a faster processor for a business machine? The slow part is the part between the chair and the keyboard ;-) Modern processors are plenty fast enough for most spreadsheet/word processor use.

  19. Tomas K.

    Few businesses need new PCs

    The PC market has basically matured and there is no need for a new PC every couple years for Biz or personal use. Mobile toys are all the rage atm, but they too will eventually plateau in sales volume when the next distraction arrives. There will always be a clueless market for worthless toys.

    The days of a new Windoze O/S creating major PC hardware sales is gone. Many businesses are switching to Linux and don't need Microsucks crapware. Perhaps the worldwide economic meltdown has motivated more people to start using their brain instead of just being sheeple?

  20. Frank Rysanek
    Thumb Up

    C2D came along with solid-polymer caps (=> capacitor plague was over)

    Yes, Core2Duo with 2 GB of RAM is quite good enough for general office work, web browsing, movie playback and the like. And the 45nm generation of Core2 doesn't even eat all that much power. Any CPU's before that, back to say the Pentium 4 heating radiators, have somewhat less performance and eat more electricity. But the C2D is quite okay. And there was another major change, that came along with the C2D: it was the solid-polymer electrolytic caps. This ended the "capacitor plague" era when motherboards only lasted like 2-4 years. With solid-polymer caps and C2D, motherboards do survive the warranty, do survive twice the warranty, do survive much longer. I work for an IPC assembly shop (which is a somewhat conservative industry) and in terms of desktop-style and PICMG motherboards, there are hardly any boards RMA'ed with solid-polymer caps on them.

  21. vonRat

    Flight Sim factor

    In the office I use a Dell made in 2007 and I'm typing this on a 2006 Lenovo ThinkPad X61. Both have had faster hard drives fitted, run Windows 7 and perform just as well at most tasks as the monstrous PC I have to use at home so I can run Flight Simulator X (released in 2006) without too much stuttering in bad weather.

    I'd only consider upgrading the home PC if someone comes up with a single core CPU running at 12GHz.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloudy services mean no new hardware (well almost)

    The rise of the cloud based services along with web front ends to many business applications means we just don't need to upgrade as fast as we used to.

    Where I am, we are slowing forcing everyone onto VDI (either via thin client, BYOD or reusing old laptops/desktops). If you aren't using a machine as a fat client then unless the hardware is actually dying there is no need to replace it. Where we are buying new laptops they are the Lenovo Think range - nice little machines too.

  23. missjanedoe

    They are going to get a lot older since we have no intention of having W8 anywhere near our office. The one W8 machine we brought in caused the person using it to throw a hissy fit after an hour and say that they would resign rather than be forced to use, in their words "Such a pile of unusable crap." We will therefore be investigating other alternatives and meanwhile our W7 machines will continue to grow older.

    1. SleepGuy

      Google startisback for Windows8. The licences are cheap ($3 each or less for business use) and it is just like using Win7. Our users don't even notice the difference.

  24. SleepGuy
    Thumb Up

    Extending refresh cycles here also

    The reason is simple...there's no compelling reason to refresh. We have maintained a 4-yr refresh cycle on our lab machines (approx 160 PC's) and should be coming up on starting the next one in 3-6 months. After reviewing it, we have no reason to do so. It's not like the past refresh cycles where the PC's being replaced were showing their age and were nearly ready for the bin, aside from a Dell model with bad power supplies (which we've been refitting with a different p/s when they fail) the failure rate has been very close to zero. I think we'll easily be able to stretch the cycle to 6 or 8 years with the current batch and hopefully even longer with the next one!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    raise in the past, decline now... so what?

    Oh please. Quit the drama El Reg!

    PC sales rose in the years past and are now declining. It will eventually stabilize at a certain level. The level where all users whom really want desktop computers have theirs.

    As for the popularity (now) for fondleslabs and smart-whatevers. Sure, it'll peak now at the cost on lost interest in desktop PC's. But soon as the interest fades off and people begin to understand their limitations too, sales of desktops will slightly rise again.

    Don't forget that the past decade a lot of PC's were sold to people whom aren't interested in computers at all. Some of these will turn to tablets are their non-PC replacement (probably with the expectation or the belief that these things can fully replace full-blown desktops or laptops). The same happened with netbooks. Soon many realized they weren't powerful enough for their liking hence sales declined. Sure, some uers will stick to them because they do see the benefits of these netbooks and do realize their shortcomings (and can live it it.).

    "For many users, that $299 laptop will be more than they need."

    Yes, indeed. Until you show them how fast, convenient and effortless a modern day i3-3220 desktop PC is in doing the stuff that that they do and which takes considerably longer on their netbooks.

    You could also say:

    For many users, that $299 laptop will be more than they need... so I get them that 35 UKP Raspberry Pi and run the amazingly fast (and incredibly simple) RISC OS on it. In fact they might even toddle a bit with programming when pressing F12 and typing BASIC at the *-prompt.

    It will certainly bring the fun back into computing.

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