10 July 2006
The number of personal computers in use in South Africa will pass the 5-million mark for the first time in 2006, according to a new study by technology research firm World Wide Worx.
“PC Users in South Africa 2006”, a study of the installed base of computers in South Africa, shows that the 4.5-million mark was reached at the end of 2005, and it is expected to grow by 17% to 5.3-million by the end of 2006.
Conducted by Kirsty Laschinger and Arthur Goldstuck, the study moved beyond conventional counting of computer sales to establish how long PCs, laptops and servers remain in use once they are in the market, and how many are in active use.
According to World Wide Worx, this has provided a clear picture of the size of the PC user base in South Africa for the first time.
“We found that PCs have a life span ranging 3 to 6 years, while laptop computers tend to be used for only up to three years,” says Laschinger, who interviewed most of the country’s major PC manufacturers and distributors for the project.
‘Second life’ for old PCs
“It was an eye-opener how many vendors of computers expect all users to replace their PCs every two to three years, when the reality is many users ‘sweating their assets’ to get maximum value from the purchase.”
The result, according to the study, is that booming sales in PCs means not only more people than ever before using new PCs, but also that PCs already in the field will remain in use for a longer period, further boosting the user base.
However, this trend may change once laptop computers overtake desktop PCs in popularity – a real possibility in the coming year or two.
“Laptop computers cannot be upgraded as easily or as cheaply as desktop PCs, so they have a shorter useful life,” says Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “You can upgrade a PC bought more than five years ago to accommodate current software, but it’s unlikely you could do that with most laptops.
“The result is that old laptops are more likely to be discarded than passed on, while old PCs are more likely to have a second life once the user upgrades.”
Factors driving growth
The net result, according to the study, is that booming laptop sales will not have the same cumulative effect on the total user base as do PC sales. Nevertheless, growth will continue, but at a slower pace, in subsequent years.
Factors that will drive this growth, according to World Wide Worx, include:
- Continued strong economic growth;
- The emergence of the black middle class;
- Improved education levels, including computer literacy;
- The evolution of the distribution channel;
- Improved affordability of PCs, both as a result of cheaper product and new financing options;
- Convergence of voice and data;
- Technology improvements; and
- Demand for more server/storage capability to meet higher levels of corporate governance requirements.