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Biz PC market's looking healthy – but is it just an XPocalypse bounce?

Yes / maybe / no (delete as required)

PC suppliers are pondering if the mini recovery in commercial IT spending is sustainable or just a Windows XPocalypse-related flash in the pan.

Under the shadow of Microsoft ending support for the 13-year-old OS, sales of business desktops spiked 26 per cent in Q4 2013, year on year, and sales into the channel improved in this year's first quarter – prompting analysts last night to claim momentum had spilt into this year.

Herbert Köck, HP's joint managing director for EMEA and senior veep for the Printing and Personal Systems division, said his biz was trying to pin down whether the uplift was largely down to offices ditching dead-end XP PCs for new gear.

"That is a question where we are spending a lot of time with our channel partners to find out what it is, my view is there is not one single thing that drives it all," he told The Channel.

Edging himself slightly over to one side of the fence, he added, "XP is probably one of the factors".

According to Netmarketshare's data for March 2014, Windows XP still accounted for 27 per of the world's desktop PCs, such is the love of the OS.

Businesses can pay for extended XP support from Microsoft under the Custom Support Agreement – which is about $200 per seat for year one, $400 for year two and $800 for year three.

The UK government last week cut a deal with the folk in Redmond, paying nearly £5.6m to cover Blighty's entire public sector for a year, and giving public bodies a year to drag their sorry arses onto Windows 7 or 8.1.

It is not clear how many PCs are in use across the wider public sector, and the Cabinet Office has not yet been able to give us an answer.

Acer EMEA regional director Neil Marshall reckons improving market demand for PC systems is more than just a brief blip caused by the death of XP.

"We see recovery in the business-to-business space as sustainable, things are slightly different in business-to-consumer where the market continues to decline with no sign of that easing off," he told us.

"Investments in replacements were postponed during the economic crisis and companies are finally looking to replace ageing technology," Marshall added.

Talking to The Channel, Dell UK boss Tim Grifin said customers were "very active" in the PC market.

"But while there is clearly an underlying economic trend we see a complex cocktail of explanations and the weighting is far from clear".

IDC's veep for the worldwide PC tracker Loren Loverde said the latest economic pressures – including relatively high unemployment, slow growth and investment, tight credit, and currency fluctuation – had eased.

But the sovereign debt problem will not be resolved any time soon: growth has slowed in China, which is the world's second largest PC market, and the industry shift to tablet computers is "unlikely to stop".

"There is potential for PC shipments to stabilise, but not much opportunity for growth," she claimed. ®

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