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Are 10-12 year PC refresh cycles on the horizon?

by Jack Santos  |  October 15, 2012  |  1 Comment

BYOD and the era of tablets has started to make me wonder. So did today’s observation in the WSJ CIO journal.

Desktop PC’s and laptops have been the RAM-tough workhorse for the enterprise since the 80s.  Tablet buying is surging, and employee use across the board is increasing.  If studies show that employees spend most of their time on tablets, that may mean they are relegating the desktop/laptop to heavy and occasional workloads (like massive Excel spreadsheet manipulation).

If that happens, will IT shops, already reeling from 5-7 year refresh cycles as a result of cost management practices and recessions, be looking at 10-12 year cycles for some (if not the majority) of employees?   That assumes that refresh cycles for tablets will be sub 5 year – and mimic phones (2-3 year).  At the $200-$600 dollar price point that may be doable.  Of course, no one is suggesting PCs and laptops go the way of the dinosaur – at worst they become akin to a  “second car”.  Contact centers, analysts, graphic artists…all require the functionality equivalent to the Tundra pickup that towed around the space shuttle this past week.  But do we all?

If that is true, the implications are enormous – not only to the Microsoft OS obsolescence strategy (with Win 8 upon us), but also to the technology waste stream, to say the least.

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Category: economy  future  it-governance  management  managment  mobility  predictions  strategic-planning  windows-8  wireless  

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Jack Santos
Research VP
7 years at Gartner
40 years IT industry

Jack Santos is a Research Vice President with Gartner, part of the Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation team within the Gartner for IT Leaders product. He focuses on enterprise architecture and technology trends. Mr. Santos' specific area of research covers individual development, leadership and management practices for enterprise architects, EA innovation, and collaboration approaches. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Are 10-12 year PC refresh cycles on the horizon?


  1. Exactly right. It’s already happened to folks who have switched to thin clients, about 10% of PCs. Why update the client hardware when a refresh of the software and hardware on the server is so much easier? The tablets are just a different kind of thin client.

    Microsoft came to thin clients too late and to tablets far too late. The train has left the station. I think 2012 is the last year where Microsoft will dominate sales of PCs of any kind.

    Tablets are still growing like weeds. The smart phone is almost mature technology by comparison and many young people with flexible fingers and good eyesight use them almost exclusively. It’s only for things where a large screen is essential that the old type of PC will persist but even then people are docking the smart thingies to big screens, keyboards and mice. There will be a whole class of all-in-one PCs emerge that will fit in the monitor, keyboard or mouse wtih no “box” at all. Storage makes more sense on servers anyway so there’s no need to occupy as much space as a hard drive. MIcrosoft’s monopoly on the PC will die when there are few hard drives left in the office or in the home.



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