All-in-One PC Sales Surge; Apple Leads Pack

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As tablets dominate the mobile-computing conversation and PC vendors shift their attention to ultralight notebooks, desktops – particularly the all-in-one variety – are undergoing a bit of a renaissance, and Apple is enjoying the lion’s share of the revival.

Believe it or not, desktop PC sales are climbing. While the market is gobbling up every device with a processor that can fit in your hand, and many PC vendors are betting big on ultralight notebooks, big all-in-one desktop computers are surging in sales.

According to DisplaySearch research, Apple sold more than 5.6 million iMac all-in-one desktop PCs in the third quarter, which represents 39 percent of the market. Lenovo also had strong all-in-one sales, holding second place with 22.7 percent market share – powered by strong China sales. Hewlett-Packard is third with 21.4 percent share.

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Today, 14.5 million all-in-one desktop PCs are sold worldwide. DisplaySearch believes that number could top 23 million by 2014 as users flock to compact, touch-screen, large-display machines.

Channelnomics has been watching this trend for a while, and it makes logical sense. Desktops sales have been declining for most of the last decade as notebook/laptop computers became increasingly more powerful and less expensive. While desktops have better displays and more processing power, the economics for most businesses didn’t allow for two PCs per user. Even if it were cost effective, synchronizing those machines wasn’t easy.

The likely catalyst for the desktop renaissance is probably tablets. The Apple iPad and its Android cousins are great information-consumption devices, but not very good at content creation. They need a companion PC for heavier chores.

Economics come to play next. The cost of desktop PCs continue to drop, with some large-display units  costing less than a high-end iPad. A desktop-and-tablet purchase today is less than the cost of a desktop 10 years ago. Businesses and users can afford to have both.

If mobility is no longer an issue and file synchronization is achieved via the cloud, desktops become a logical purchasing decision on both a business and consumer level.

DisplaySearch is probably correct in its long-term forecast. Users want the convenience of small portable devices, but they want the power and ease of use that comes with a large-display desktop. That will continue to drive desktop sales.

This same trend will help accelerate the BYOC (bring your own computer) to work trend; as users opt for mobile devices, businesses will buy desktops to have greater control over applications and data in the workplace. That said, businesses will likely gravitate toward thin-clients first as facilitators of BYOC.

Solution providers have been writing off PC sales across the board because of their declining prices and margins. Going forward, though, PCs could be a cost-neutral component to larger sales deals and a catalyst for customer choice. In other words, the channel shouldn't dismiss desktops.

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