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Don’t Be Seduced by Consumer PC ‘Bargains’, Gartner Warns Business Users

Consumer Devices Are No Substitute for Business-Class Systems

(PresseBox) (Egham, UK, ) Some organisations are incorrectly assuming that less-expensive, consumer-class PCs are suitable for business use. Gartner today warned organisations that invest in consumer PCs and notebooks risk higher total cost of ownership (TCO) in terms of platform instability, less quality control and limited support.

"There is growing pressure for IT organisations to consider purchasing consumer PCs primarily as a cost-saving measure for the business and also to appease users who are becoming more technology-astute and often want the latest consumer features on their corporate systems," said Leslie Fiering, research vice-president at Gartner. "However, consumer devices are no substitute for business-class devices as they lack many vital features that businesses need."

Ms Fiering acknowledged that given the current low cost of consumer hardware, IT managers might find themselves under pressure to justify the higher costs of enterprise PCs to senior management. She urged them to fully explain the likely TCO implications of purchasing consumer PCs and notebooks for the workforce. "Companies should avoid the inclination to purchase consumer systems for business use and instead realise that the premium price for a business-class system reflects real value in system stability, comprehensive quality testing and extensive ongoing services," said Ms Fiering. "Those that pursue the consumer alternative are likely to find that their initial cost savings will quickly be followed by numerous charges and compromises."

For corporate buyers standardisation is essential because it affords less complexity and lower TCO. Even minor changes to a corporate system have the potential to create incompatibility and require additional testing and system support. For this reason, corporate buyers are less interested in the latest new features, focusing instead on the following attributes:

- Platform stability (a base level of predictable functionality)
- Longer product cycles (at least 18 months or longer)
- System design and features
- Quality assurance programmes
- Security and manageability
- Consultative relationship with the sales channel
- PC life cycle services

Since consumers usually purchase one system at a time, consumer-class PCs and notebooks have no investment in platform stability and no concern for standardised system image. Consumer systems also lack corporate features such as docking stations and often come with consumer versions of the Windows operating system and software applications. These systems have limited quality assurance programmes, having undergone less rigorous testing than corporate hardware which can result in a 50 per cent higher failure rate incurring higher repair costs and user down time. Lastly, there is little support available from the retail channel when things do go wrong, with warranty support typically restricted to a much shorter time.

Ms Fiering confirmed that Gartner remained an advocate of the emerging trend for employee-owned systems but that such schemes must respect the wider needs of the company. "Until organisations develop suitable virtualisation techniques to isolate corporate needs from the consumer environment, companies should require users involved in such programmes to purchase from an approved list of consumer-friendly corporate configurations, which the IT organisation has pre-configured," she advised.