Forrester: PC Buying Could Slow Through 2007

Corporations are at the end of the current refresh cycle, and may want to standardize on Windows XP before moving to Vista, according to the research firm.

The corporate PC market could see a slowdown over the next year as businesses reach the end of a refresh cycle and continue to drive for a single operating system environment, according to industry analyst firm Forrester Research.

In a survey of 454 PC decision-makers in North America, Forrester found that almost 75 percent of corporate PCs are running Microsofts Windows XP, and that while 40 percent said they planned to begin deploying Windows Vista within a year of its release, the research firm expects businesses first to standardize on a single operating system first before making the move.

That, combined with being at the tail end of the most recent refresh cycle, means that "many firms will try to extend the life of the deployed PCs so that they can replace them with a Windows Vista machine when the time is right," according to the report, compiled by Forrester analyst Simon Yates.

Vista is due in 2007.

Forrester, of Cambridge, Mass., issued the report to clients in August 2006, but began making it public in late September.

Other findings in the report include that buying preferences havent changed much over the past year.

Dell is still the leading vendor for both desktops and laptops. According to the survey, 56 percent said that the Round Rock, Texas, systems maker was its primary supplier of desktops, and 53 percent said Dell was its top laptop vendor, a slight rise from a year ago.

Hewlett-Packard was the second-place vendor for desktops and third for laptops, while Lenovo Group was number three in desktops and two in laptops.

Dell, which has stumbled this year with disappointing quarterly numbers and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, was the top vendor as far as laptop pricing is concerned, followed by HP and Lenovo, but Lenovo was number one as far as innovation goes.

HP, which has had its share of negative news lately tied to the investigation of the board of directors by various government bodies, was second in that list.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., and Lenovo split on product quality, and Dell and HP were one and two in terms of support.

All that said, Forrester said it found that its difficult to convince customers to switch vendors, and that Dell is number one as far as its business relationships with customers and overall satisfaction rating.

Dell was tops, with 47 percent of customers saying they were "very satisfied" with their relationship with Dell, a 9 percent nod over Lenovo, of Raleigh, N.C., and 11 percent over HP.

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The report stated that "the quality of the business relationship between the customer and the supplier ultimately determines whether or not that customer will consider switching vendors. As a result, incumbency is built on the strength of the business relationship."

Because of that, Forrester disputed what it says are HPs and Lenovos contention that Dell customers with five or fewer years with the vendor were good candidates for switching due to quality, innovation and support issues.

"Our data suggests that getting companies to switch is very difficult," the report said.

In other areas, Forrester expects desktops to continue their dominance in the enterprise. Over the last few years, about three quarters of the PCs used in businesses were desktops, and according to the report, 43 percent of companies plan to grow their desktop use, while 16 percent said they expect their use to decline.

In addition, lightweight laptops still have a ways to go before gaining widespread adoption within the enterprise, and tablet PCs—which have been around for four years—still are not gaining much traction.

Sixty-three percent of the firms polled said they plan to increase the use of standard laptops—ones with a 14- or 15-inch display—while half of the businesses expect their use of lightweight notebooks with 12-inch screens and weighing less than three pounds to remain the same.

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