The new complications of the PC refresh cycle

by

Today I thought my laptop had crashed. For good. While everything had been backed up and was completely recoverable other than perhaps the email I was in the middle of typing, I was still distressed enough to leave my computer for rest, grab the jar of raw almond butter, and eat it by the spoonful while looking out the window wondering what to do. (Raw almond butter soothes my nerves like Ben and Jerry) I’ve been preparing for a trip to the Apple Store for a while, and while it wasn’t on my schedule for tonight, I sighed and processed my potential future pretty quickly. Then I got a grip, put the almond butter away, and called Jim to talk about what to do.

As a little background, Jim and I both bought the same MacBook Pro model two years ago when we started Thought Ensemble. His crashed a couple months ago, although he was able to replace the hard drive and make it usable again. I have not lasted with a laptop more than 18 months since the beginning of my career. I am very hard on laptops – I take them everywhere, move them all around, drop them, junk them up with too many applications, etc, etc. So when I built our original financial plan, it was based on an 18 month laptop refresh policy. Jim told me I was crazy, but at least I thought I was being conservative. So who was right?

Well, as it turns out neither and both. The whole laptop/ PC refresh equation has gotten much more complicated. Yes, Jim was right, the machines now do last longer than 18 months. Well, they always did, but they last longer than that for the aggressive user like me and the standard three-year cycle that most companies follow is lengthening as well. The machines are more durable today, especially the Macs, and their performance power lasts longer than it used to.

But here’s where the numbers in the model weren’t off base. It isn’t a simple 1:1 equation anymore. You can’t estimate how long the device lasts, on average, and use that number to model a per-employee spend. If you follow Jim’s blog, you’ll know the complication. He replaced his laptop with a desktop. Well, he repaired the laptop and got an additional desktop. Oh, and we bought the whole company iPads as soon as they hit the market. And we all have iPhones. So we now each really have 3-4 computers. And before you toss those out as minor expenses in comparison to computers, know that the iPhones are $600 each, the iPads are $600-800 depending on the model, and new laptops … well, I don’t know. I just paused to google “price of Dell laptops” and it appears they start at around $399. So I could probably get something usable for traveling for less than $1000… if I weren’t tied to a Mac. And all these machines are capitalizable, at least according to our accountant.

So my conversation with Jim had nothing to do with when to replace the laptop. We both know productivity is so important to us that we will invest in computers in their various forms early and repeatedly. The discussion was about the multiple replacement options. He’s so much more productive on his desktop that I’m tempted to go that route. We even talked about doing an iMac desktop and a cheap PC laptop (not just for cost, but to have the option to work in native Windows and Office).

Luckily, my computer did finally turn on and I didn’t have to make the decision today because I’m not sure what I would have done. Well, I know I would have gone straight to the Apple Store, but I’m not sure what I would have done once I got there…

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