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Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Seven Key Trends and their Meaning: SMB Endpoint Device Market in 2014

IT markets tend to be complex and fast-moving – but even by IT industry standards, the endpoint device market in 2014 is extremely complex, and subject to significant and abrupt changes. Consider the following trends – some of which have played out over several years, and some of which are scant months old – and how they might affect buyers and suppliers of client technology this year:

#1: Migration to multiple screens: It is clear that today’s SMB endpoint device user is looking to perform specific tasks with the best possible device

    • Impact/implications: The ‘Swiss Army Knife’ appeal of the notebook – which doubled as both a mobility device and as a content creation platform – is waning. Tablets, not notebooks, are seen as the key productivity tool; and there is evidence to suggest that the desktop may have resurgence as a content creation option.



#2: Migration away from the traditional Wintel platform: For decades, “endpoint device” has been synonymous with “PC,” and “PC” has implied a device based on Microsoft Windows and Intel microprocessors. Through the course of this decade, that definition has been eroding. With the iPhone and iPad, Apple established iOS as a key smartphone and tablet technology. Google’s Android, with the support of powerful OEMs, has built a leadership position in the smartphone market, and has a great deal of market strength in the tablet market; Techaisle SMB End-Point survey results indicate that it is gaining momentum in the PC market as well. Meanwhile, low-power ARM chips have spread beyond portable devices into the PC, and even the data center.

    • Impact/implications: The proliferation of operating systems and underlying architectures creates opportunity for a wide range of suppliers – and confusion for a large number of SMB and mid-market IT managers who need to integrate, support and secure these devices. Suppliers should both exploit niche opportunities and look for strategies and tools that help IT managers to wrap niche products into existing, evolving client device portfolios.



#3: Incursion of new form factors:The acceptance of multiple screens, coupled with the availability of new platform technologies, has created a market where “endpoint devices” span a wide range of device categories: desktop PCs, notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones, as well as thin clients, All-in-Ones, and other device types.

    • Impact/implications: These form factors are differentiated by more than size and input technology; they move through different SMB channels at different price points; they appeal to different kinds of SMB buyers, who use different means to learn about and source them. The complexity associated with the proliferation of form factors will challenge marketing organizations that are accustomed to using a limited number of marketing vehicles and channel options to reach a relatively-predictable buying audience.



#4: Opportunities to redefine product categories: Buyer openness to new screen types has emboldened suppliers to redefine categories, or to create entirely new device classes. Some of these attempts (like the Ultrabook) have had limited success, but others, such as the 2-in-1 tablet/PC, show promise.

    • Impact/implications: There is arguably more opportunity to define net-new endpoint offerings today than there has been for decades. There is an additional requirement on suppliers to segment accurately, to be in tune with the needs and preferences of target segments, and to move quickly to address new demand drives – but there is also new opportunity to translate this acumen and agility into substantial marketing-driven success.



#5: Solution opportunities: As endpoints become more capable, buyers – especially the emerging class of SMB business decision makers (BDMs) who wield increasing power in IT decisions – will move past the device itself, to a need for solutions (such as mobility) that capitalize on the capabilities of the new units.

    • Impact/implications: To date, endpoint device suppliers have focused on building and selling screens, not the solutions that connect the screens. Marketers who understand how to connect their products to business-relevant solutions have an opportunity to differentiate those products, attracting new SMB customers and partners.



#6: Changes in buying points: The impact of SMB BDMs was mentioned above, but this point really should be considered as a trend unto itself. The IT industry has been told for years that BDMs (and especially, CMOs) would displace CIOs as the key IT decision makers. This certainly has not come to pass, and it is not clear that this shift will ever result in CIOs being displaced from their technology strategy roles. However, it is very clear that BDMs possess a great deal of power in many environments, and that their preferences and requirements are an important factor in shaping overall IT priorities.

    • Impact/implications: If BDMs gain power by joining rather than supplanting the IT decision maker (ITDM) “at the table”, the net effect is that the decision making unit within SMB customer accounts is getting bigger and more diverse. This may offer new opportunities for one-off point technology sales, but is likely to increase decision time and complexity in many organizations – particularly, within larger businesses.



#7: Product and information distribution logic: In a market dominated by the ITDM, vendors could rely on IT-focused information sources to reach prospective buyers, and IT channels to manage relationships with these buyers. Like the ITDMs themselves, these requirements persist in the current market – but are joined by a new set of inputs. SMB Business buyers do not look for the same types of information that ITDMs require, and they are looking for different kinds of information to help shape requirements and preferences. Meanwhile, the traditional channel plays an essential role in distributing traditional endpoint device types (desktop and notebook PCs), but other channels (carrier, retail) are key conduits for other product types. Effectively managing the mix of information and buyers, and products and channels, is becoming a key factor in vendor success.

    • Impact/implications: Increased complexity in information sources poses a challenge for marketers, who must find multiple ways of reaching customers. The imperative for success in this activity is increased by the common belief that buyers are using online resources to get much deeper into the purchase cycle before they contact a vendor; this increases the importance of effective content marketing, as direct sales alone will have difficulty in shaping needs and associated preferences. At the same time, the channel’s support needs are changing, and the vendor’s need to expand its channel by engaging with new kinds of partner businesses is becoming clear. Vendors need to both help traditional partners to succeed in their business transformations, and to establish relationships that reach new buyers within customer organizations.



Any one of these trends would be noteworthy against the backdrop of the SMB endpoint device opportunity, which accounts for a clear majority of all IT hardware spending, and affects literally every user of technology. Taken as a whole, these seven factors indicate potential for substantial market upheaval, creating risk and opportunity for current market leaders and new market entrants alike.

Any one of these trends would be noteworthy against the backdrop of the SMB endpoint device opportunity, which accounts for a clear majority of all IT hardware spending, and affects literally every user of technology. Taken as a whole, these seven factors indicate potential for substantial market upheaval, creating risk and opportunity for current market leaders and new market entrants alike.

To help illustrate potential opportunities and pitfalls in the 2014 endpoint device market, Techaisle has produced the The SMB Endpoint Device Adoption Trends report. This report is based on survey of SMBs, and includes both BDMs and ITDMs across each SMB size category.

About the Report

Coverage:

    • Current and Planned purchase Intentions of client devices

 

    • Tablet OS & Application software adoption – Behind the Screen

 

    • BYOD: Employers vs. Employees, or Micros vs. Larger SMBs?

 

    • Across the OS generations: XP, Windows 8 refresh intentions

 

    • The Android Opportunity: Google in the PC Market

 

    • Converged Mobility PCs: 2-in-1 PCs

 

    • PC Purchase Channel and Sources of Information



More details about the report can be found here.

Related Research Articles

Techaisle survey data shows BYOD is a major force in the US SMB Market

SMB Purchase Intentions for Android PCs

Key Attributes of Successful SMB Mobility Solutions

Techaisle survey data shows BYOD is a major force ...
SMB Purchase Intentions for Android PCs
 

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