XChange: When It Comes To SMB PC Sales, Don't Believe The Hype

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When it comes to SMB buying habits through the channel, don't believe the headlines.

While conventional wisdom says that the meteoric rise of the tablet is eating into PC sales, that trend simply is not bearing out in the SMB channel, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group Monday during a session at the XChange Solution Provider conference. NPD tracks product sales through distributors and DMRs to measure channel sales trends.

"It's just not the case in the commercial technology channel, especially in the small and medium business channels," Baker said.

[Related: XChange Solution Provider 2012 Coverage]

Sales of notebooks in 2011 through the SMB channel grew by around 20 percent, showing growth of over 25 percent in five different months throughout the year, Baker said.

"It continues to amaze people that are spending too much time looking at consumer data that in comparison channel PC sales continue to be strong," he said.

Another popular meme Baker said he wanted to debunk is that notion that Cisco Systems is losing ground in the networking hardware space.

"Everyone says that competitors are putting pressure on Cisco, but if you look at the channel sales numbers, it's pretty hard to find," Baker said, noting that NPD research shows that Cisco garnered over 60 percent of sales throughout much of 2011, with its next-closest rival, Hewlett-Packard, bringing in closer to 10 percent.

Jeremy MacBean, director of business development at IT Weapons, Brampton, Ont., was happy to see strong forecasts for spending as his company moves this year to tackle the SMB market.

"We've always done great in the enterprise and we continue to do so, but we want to expand our business," MacBean said. "What is reassuring for us is to see that server infrastructure spending and networking were at the top [of the spending forecasts]. It reaffirms the Spidey sense we had."

In general, 67 percent of SMBs surveyed by NPD at the end of 2011 said they plan to spend on IT this year, particularly in market segments such as PCs, software, printers and servers.

The average SMB customer that intends to buy networking hardware plans to spend $33,000 to obtain the gear it needs. Those that plan to buy storage say they will spend $35,000, while those that want servers said they will spend $50,000, Baker said.

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