Impending Windows XP doom breathes life into flagging PC sales

Yet British biz still reluctant to get off its backsides

The looming death of Microsoft support for XP may finally be helping to breathe some new life into the corporate refresh cycle and lift the slumping PC market, according to those box counting fiends at IDC.

The market was lifted in Q3 by the B2B segment but it wasn't enough to offset the continued drop in consumer spending as sales in EMEA dropped 16 per cent on shipments of 21.4 million units.

One quarter of improving declines doesn't make for a sustained upturn, a point acknowledged by IDC computing analyst Chrystelle Labesque.

"While it is too early to talk about recovery, the worse seems to have been reached in the second quarter of 2013. However, the ramp up is mainly in the commercial area, with September performance above expectations for most players," she said.

"The end of Windows XP support in 2014 is driving IT departments to focus on hardware refresh," she added.

According to Gartner, the worldwide installed base for commercial PCs was more than 756m in 2012, and is expected to be 776m this year.

The box counter does not have specific numbers for the XP installed base but told us the total Windows installed based was 715m last year and is forecast to be 732m in 2013.

Yet another analyst, NetMarketShare, reckons around one third of corporate PCs out there still runs XP. With less than six months until XP support ends on 8 April a lot of customers haven't yet made the jump onto Windows 7. The Channel understands at least ten major corporates with more than 5,000 seats will miss the deadline.

They can pay for dedicated Microsoft support but this will cost $200 per PC in year one, $400 for year two and $800 per box in year three.

Back in the summer HP estimated around 40 per cent of UK business customers were still using XP. If correct, that would equate to roughly six million systems in Blighty alone.

Paul Hunter, veep for the Printer and Personal Systems biz in the UK and Ireland, told us that "a lot of medium sized and small businesses" were happy with XP and had not moved to Windows 7.

But he said targeting these small businesses with a migration message was not easy: "It's a lot of hard work addressing a really fragmented customer base."

The commercial PC segment may be showing some signs of activity on the back of the XP issue, but IDC said that the Back 2 School push was less beneficial to boosting shipments than in previous years as retailers stocked shelves with some caution.

IDC said vendors and their retail partners were still keeping a tighter grip on inventory levels after excess stock cost many PC makers dear in the last couple of years.

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