PCs at a Crossroads

2009 is the first year PC shipments decline.

It is amazing to see what happens when the cyclical intersects with the systemic. What I mean is that, based on the current economic condition, everything within IT is being seriously reexamined. Efficiency and ROI continue to be top-of-mind while increasing workforce productivity and innovation are equally essential.

What also happens within an economic downturn is that systemic changes in an industry are magnified—and often accelerated. Primarily caused by cyclical market pressure, we start to really pay attention to alternative solutions that can free us from traditional approaches.

Case in point is the PC market. Market researcher IDC (a sister company of ours) reports that 2009 will be the first year since 2001 where PC shipments will decline. I believe this drop is driven by a more rapid intersection of the cyclical and the systemic as the PC value proposition is challenged and then transformed. As Intel CEO Paul Otellini recently said, "We're moving from personal computers to personal computing." That comment signals Intel's way of moving into new markets, but it also acknowledges that the enterprise PC market has arrived at a crossroads.

On one side, CIOs are looking hard at netbooks, desktop virtualization, thin clients, tablets and smart devices as inevitable PC alternatives. On the other side, we're watching an aggressive Windows 7 launch that's garnering some positive reviews, coupled with a PC refresh cycle need that's bursting at the corporate seams.

Add this all together and you've got a significant inflection point within the enterprise PC market. We also see CIOs paying much greater attention these days to how and where consumer technologies and other devices might benefit the enterprise. It's actually been quite a while since leading PC vendors such as Acer, Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo have actively drawn any attention to the importance and value proposition of the PC within the enterprise. Well, they'd better start speaking up soon, because there are plenty of new options for CIOs to evaluate—options that may ultimately be judged as more reasonable, affordable alternatives for your organizations.

What will all this mean for a PC market at the crossroads? Which road looks more appealing for your company? E-mail me to share your thoughts.

New! Download the CIO March/April Digital Magazine