Canadian firms buying laptops and Macs instead of desktop PCs

Thanks to a roaring tablet market the PC has been having a rather tough time lately. But a recent report from analyst firm IDC Canada indicates that the market for business laptops is growing strong.

Tablet devices exploded on to the market to chalk up a 328 per cent year-over-year (YoY) growth, according to the IDC report. The company also said that strong demand for tablets was forcing analysts to downgrade expectations for the worldwide PC market this year from 7.1 per cent growth worldwide to just 4.2 per cent.

iSuppli Corp. a Califonia-based market research firm, also noted that by 2015, shipments of Internet-enabled consumer devices such as tablets will surpass three-quarters of a billion units, dramatically exceeding PC shipments of 479.1 million. More than 300 million tablets are expected to ship by 2015, which is 15 times greater than shipments in 2010, according to iSuppli.

“These new figures are the latest evidence that the Internet is not just for PCs anymore,” Jordan Selburn, a principal analyst at iSuppli, said.

 “The Internet now is revolutionizing the consumer electronics business by delivering a range of products that can bring Web-based content to homes…. In the future, consumers will be more likely to access the Internet through their televisions than via their PCs.” Selburn said.

Still, the second quarter of 2011 saw PCs posting a slight growth largely due to a demand for laptops, says Tim Brunt, senior analyst for personal computing at IDC Canada.

“Q2 is significant because this is the first quarter in years that portables or laptops overtook desktop computers,” said Brunt who is the lead analyst for IDC’s Canadian Quarterly PC Tracker program.

In Q2 of 2009 for instance, laptops accounted for 38.7 per cent of the market for computer equipment. For the same period this year, that share rocketed to 51 per cent, said Brunt.

The total PC shipment in Canada for Q2 reached 1,534,171 units. The portable PC market posted a strong 10.6 per cent YoY growth on 1,010,482 units while desktop YoY growth was only eight per cent with 523,689 units.

BYOB trend making an impact

Brunt attributes the growing appetite for laptops to three key factors:

  • Competitive pricing – Over the years, laptop prices have gone down considerably.
  • Demand for mobility – More and more users want to take their computing away from their desks.
  • The BYOD trend – Bring your own device is becoming more prevalent in many businesses across Canada both in the large enterprise and SMB sector.

“Many businesses are realizing the benefits and cost effectiveness of mobile computing,” Brunt told ITBusiness.ca.

The increasing computing power built into today’s laptops and the plummeting prices have also made them more attractive as desktop replacements to a wide variety of users that include corporate executives, SMB owners, mobile workers and even single-personnel company operators, he said.

In the large enterprise and SMB sector, the BYOD trend is not only partially fuelling laptop sales but is also whetting the appetite for Apple products.

Canadian sales of Apple products to businesses went up to 48.7 per cent in Q2 of this year compared to around 36.4 per cent for the same period in 2009, according to IDC Canada.

“Traditionally Apple has always had strong consumer sales numbers,” said Brunt. “But for this quarter we saw marked shift towards business.”

The analyst attributes this to the growing popularity of Apple products to business users and users preferring to bring into the workplace their own personal computers.

However, Brunt also pointed out that Apple has been actively courting the business sector. “In the United States, I know that Apple has been stepping up their efforts to hold seminars at Apple Stores designed for business users. The same is probably showing up in Canada.”

Tara Hendela, spokesperson for Apple, said that for Q3 this year, the company sold 3.95 million Macs globally. “There are now 54 million active Mac uses and the customer base continues to grow at a tremendous pace,” she said.

“The Mac has outpaced the PC market for more than five years in a row. Note that Apple also has made the shift to mobile, Almost ¾ of new Macs are notebooks,” Hendela said.

SMBs should be careful with picking bargains

The IDC Canada report also revealed that Canadian businesses were buying more computer products through retailers rather than dealers and the value added retail (VAR) channels. IDC said product shipments into the retail channels grew by 13.6 per cent YoY while the dealer and VAR channels only had a 0.6 per cent growth.

Brunt said a lot of businesses are being driven to retailers’ store by bargain laptop prices that in some instances could be as much as 50 per cent lower than what they would get from dealers.

He also said that last-minute purchases as opposed to pre-planned equipment refreshes may have something to do with the shift to retailers such as Best Buy and Future Shop.

“We’re in a society now where the IT department is increasingly in a reactive mode. A person is hired on Friday and they need a computer by Monday, so the IT department goes to a retailer,” said Brunt.

“Competition among retailers is so fierce that buyers are offered lots of attractive packages and bargains,” he said.

But pricing and ease of purchase aside, Brunt cautioned that SMBs seeking to go the retailer route need to need to consider several key issues that might impact them down the line.

He said buyers should determine that:

  • The specs of computers they are purchasing are up to snuff for business use
  • Buyers should make sure the equipment will integrate with existing network and hardware
  • Technical and customer support offered with the product is adequate for or appropriate for the business

“The buyer should do their homework,” Brunt cautioned. “Not all bargains are what they appear to be.”

Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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