If early indications are correct, the strongest rate of IT spending in almost two years could begin next quarter — and the industry has Microsoft to thank.
Market research firm ChangeWave noted in a report that due to overwhelming positive reception of Windows 7, businesses are ready to replace their creaky old notebook and desktop PCs.
In a survey of 1,753 corporate IT buyers, ChangeWave found 73 percent said their company will be buying laptops and 69 percent will be buying desktops in the first quarter of 2010, the highest levels for both since February 2008.
A key reason is Windows 7. Nearly one in five respondents said that the arrival of the new edition of Windows is making their firm quicken the pace of their normal computer upgrade cycle over the next six months. Ten percent of those surveyed said Windows 7 had created a "slight acceleration" in their upgrade plans, while 6 percent said it caused a "modest acceleration" and an additional 3 percent said Windows 7 had caused "significant acceleration."
Additionally, about 10 percent of the corporate IT buyers polled said that their company had already bought PCs with Windows 7 installed.
With the collapse of the economy a year ago, many IT shops froze all spending and stretched out the lifespan of their PCs for as long as possible. Various research firms, as well as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and hardware vendors, all encouraged IT shops to avoid doing so, however, citing the increased expense of maintaining aging equipment — but to no avail. Sales remained stalled for most of the year, and many said they were waiting for Windows 7.
But Windows 7, which shipped in October after having been available in public pre-release versions since the start of the year, has lit a fire under IT managers. ChangeWave found that 93 percent of the IT professionals polled said that their company is satisfied with the new operating system, a one-point increase over a similar survey in July.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the release of a public beta of Windows 7 in January 2009 at the Consumer Electronics Show. Right away, it earned rave reviews for its stability and performance. In the summer, Microsoft released a Release Candidate, showing near-final code, and again, drew high praise from reviewers and individual users alike.
The result was that anticipation of the new OS rather caused IT shops to hold off on buying rather than purchasing a new system with either Windows XP, which is now an eight-year-old operating system, or Windows Vista, which was widely disliked.
"Previous ChangeWave surveys found companies deferring their PC purchases in anticipation of Windows 7, the latest results show the opposite now occurring," ChangeWave Research Director Paul Carton and researcher Adam Golub wrote in a blog post.
The new PC rollouts are part of what appears to be a loosening of the purse strings across the board. ChangeWave’s polling found that 22 percent of the IT buyers surveyed said that their company plans to increase its spending during the first quarter of 2010, a four-point increase since a similar poll in August. However, 21 percent said that their firm would reduce IT spending, also a four-point change.
Microsoft will benefit from this spending and seems to have earned renewed favor with IT companies. ChangeWave found 26 percent of those polled plan to boost spending on the company’s products in the next quarter, up from just 16 percent in August and 10 percent last February.
But it’s not hurting Apple. The company seemingly immune to recession is also not harmed by Microsoft’s new glow. "Planned Mac buying has hit a new high in the latest survey, with 10 percent saying their company will be buying Mac laptops and 7 percent desktops in the first quarter," Carton and Golub wrote.
The 10 percent of IT shops planning to purchase MacBooks marks the best Apple has done since ChangeWave began following it in 2005, according to the analyst firm.