As the technology refresh cycle gains momentum, a frequently asked question remains - what is the optimal useful life of a laptop? There is a wide array of answers, and chances are that regardless of your opinion, there will be a third party consultant that will align with your opinion.
As always with my blog, the opinions represented are mine and not those of my employer.
I am one of those consultants with an opinion as well. Let me know your opinion and perspective. My comments follow.
Laptops remain, in my opinion, most useful when the battery life is optimized. Newer laptops have significantly longer battery life. Ask anyone who might have a choice, and the selection would likely be new versus retaining the existing laptop. In the enterprise my research and experience continues to suggest that 30 months is the optimal life for laptops. I am always asked- can you keep laptops longer? The answer is - of course, but why would your business want to? The rationale for refreshing laptops more frequently than desktops is compelling. Here are a few comments in bulleted format:
- The first and foremost is likely battery life, In terms of the economics, the time when a new battery needs to be acquired, is likely the time to replace the device.
- Residual value. I like to compare residual values of devices to a roller coaster (my preference for amusement parks is noted). Once a device declines in value, the decline is exponential in terms of residual values.
- Windows 7. Of course you can run W7 by adding more disk and memory to older laptops. This dismisses the advantages of the new chip architecture, however, which may be a primary driver to secure a new laptop.
- Speaking of disk and memory, in terms of the economics, when the cost of the disk, memory, and desk side support calls (including the plan itself and incident ticket) approach one year's worth of depreciation, at that time, a new device may be viable.
- Newer laptops will dramatically increase productivity. Boot, reboot, hibernation, searches,and other features will result in possible over 30%+ improvements (this is conservative). There remain many businesses that still consider productivity and downtime "soft" costs. Really no argument from me in that respect, except to state that the productivity gains are so dramatic, that in this refresh, it is a challenge to ignore the impact given the sheer gain in terms of scope.
- Believing that the recession is nearing an end, there is still a need to be careful in expenditures. If it is a matter of capital and cash flow, then alternatives such as financing for laptops may be a viable alternative, or PC As A Service approaches.
- Lastly my point is that as businesses recruit the best and brightest, having end users on old technology may not be the image and toolset that empower prospective employees. Newer laptops reflect much of the consumerization we have spoken about in previous blog entries (BYOC as an example).
I could add more comments to this refresh position, but the point hopefully has been confirmed that this refresh cycle requires a revisiting of the existing installed base, user segments, and the lifecycle of laptops in particular. The business case should be quite compelling with 30 months as the target.