replacement to encourage industry upturn
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver
Issue #715 July 8-14, 2003 High Tech Office column
How old is the
computer on your desk?
It used to be
that most businesses routinely replaced personal computers over a
three-year cycle. That sort of thinking worked well through the 1990s,
when businesses using DOS-based systems at the beginning of the decade
first upgraded to use Windows 3.1, then Windows 95, then to provide
Internet access and then to ensure Year-2000 compliance.
however, there's been less technology-driven panic. Businesses and
individuals have become more likely to make do with their current
generation of computer hardware and software. The result? According to IDC
Canada analyst Vito Mabrucco, 60 per cent of Canada's 22
million PCs are at least three years old, with nine million corporate
systems installed in 1999 or earlier.
speaking at a recent Intel-sponsored Toronto panel discussion,
looking at whether companies are getting their money's worth out of
their investment in computer technology. (Yes, Intel has a vested
interest in getting businesses to buy new computers.) According to Doug
Cooper, Intel-Canada's country manager, at most 25 per cent of
Canadian businesses now use a three-year turnover for personal
workplace, the bulk of the computers being used were purchased almost
five years ago, in the fall of 1998. Pentium-II systems from Richmond's
Seanix run Windows 95 on 266-MHz processors, with
64 MB of memory and four GB hard drives. While current mid-priced
systems boast processor speeds, memory and hard drive capacities eight
to 10 times higher, these older systems continue to be more than
adequate for the word processing, e-mail and Web browsing that accounts
for most of their use.
no longer supports Windows 95. As a result, there are no new security
updates for the operating system. Though we upgraded the Web browsers
to Internet Explorer 5.5, Microsoft has recently stopped providing
security upgrades for that browser version. Its replacement, IE 6.0,
won't install on systems running Windows 95. (Windows 98 was due for
the same cut-off this summer, though Microsoft recently granted it a
temporary reprieve.) Similarly, some other software that we might want
to use either needs more drive space, memory or CPU power than we can
throw at it, or refuses to run under Win95. (The new update to
Microsoft Office expected later this year will only install onto
systems running Windows 2000 or XP.) Even if new software installs, it
often will run poorly on older systems.
And now that
the three-year extended warranty period is over, the mechanical parts
on some of these computers are starting to fail. We've had to replace
power supplies, hard drives and keyboards.
businesses are replacing aging desktop computers, often they are buying
notebooks. Sales of portable computers have been one of the bright
areas in what has been otherwise a stagnant market for personal
computers. But notebooks require replacement more frequently. Moving
them around increases the likelihood that something will break. Cooper
noted that Intel's policy is to refresh its desktop PCs over a
three-year cycle while replacing notebooks every two years. Cooper
added that companies that delay replacing aging computers are now
forced to increase spending for maintenance and support.
were hopeful that the expense of supporting an aging computer
infrastructure will spur a new wave of business purchases. IDC Canada
is predicting that the next year will see a 2.5-per-cent to
3.5-per-cent growth in Canadian computer sales, resulting in, according
to Mabrucco, a $5.4-billion market.