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Why Legacy PC Vendors Promote Device-as-a-Service

Once upon a time, a few years ago, technology industry analysts reported on global market growth for new devices -- where personal computers, media tablets and smartphones were in demand by both consumers and businesses. However, then came widespread market saturation, and declines in demand.

Worldwide tablet and PC shipments will fall by 2.1 percent to 398 million units in 2018, according to the latest market study by Canalys. But this represents the smallest decline of the past four years and sets the tone for an era of stability. So, when does the market trend return to growth? That remains a mystery.

Personal Computing Device Market Development

Consumer refresh cycles have started to stabilize, and the legacy PC vendors have focused on new categories, such as gaming PCs, Chromebooks and convertibles. On the commercial side, Microsoft Windows 10 migration is a driver for hardware refresh, as some businesses are forced to move from Intel Skylake-generation architectures to newer processor technologies.

"Commercial customers will be a vital driver for PC shipments in 2018," said Ishan Dutt, research analyst at Canalys. "Vendors now have several strategic options for achieving growth."

Firstly, several vendors are now tracking their customers that are still running Windows 7 and will specifically target these accounts with sales teams. Secondly, vendors will promote and invest further in Device as a Service (DaaS) offerings, which lock-in PC refresh cycles.

But shifting from a transactional to contractual selling model is a major operational challenge for customers and channel partners, and this will prevent DaaS becoming a major revenue stream in the near-term.

And finally, several PC vendors will invest to grow the Google Chrome OS platform outside of the United States this year, with a specific focus on the education sector.


"Consumer demand will remain weak overall," said Dutt. "Components such as DRAM will remain constrained in the short-term, and vendors will pass most of the increased costs onto customers, driving up ASPs."

But dedicated gaming PCs have emerged as a modest hotspot in large markets -- such as the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea -- where eSports has helped to generate an appetite among younger consumers with disposable incomes who are willing to spend for high performance.

The consumer market is also more likely to see new brands challenging HP, Lenovo and Dell. Despite the sector's weak performance, there are lower barriers to entry from a channel perspective compared with the commercial sector. Huawei and Xiaomi are attempting to disrupt selected markets, but nether yet has a range of products or channel partners to displace the legacy incumbents.

Despite a recent rise in iPad shipments, the tablet category remains in decline as consumers show a preference for smartphones as their primary mobile devices and rely on traditional PCs for more compute-intensive tasks. The category is expected to contract by almost 3 percent per year on average from 2017 to 2022, down almost 150 million units from the market peak in 2014.

Once a consumer-centric product, tablets are now shifting in a commercial application direction. The connectivity, portability and display size of cheaper slate tablets deliver a solid value proposition to important industry verticals -- such as education, healthcare and retail.

Outlook for Commercial Tablet Applications

Often, these devices are locked to a single application for a specific business function, such as point of sale (PoS). But knowledge workers need more, and corporate resellers are now pitching detachable tablet devices -- such as the iPad Pro and Surface Pro -- to businesses as part of workforce transformation initiatives.

But these devices represent a very small proportion of the commercial PC market, as IT managers still face constraints, such as price, number of ports, compatibility with peripherals and the prospect of managing an ecosystem of multiple operating systems.

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