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Techaisle Blog

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.
Anurag Agrawal

AI PCs Poised for Takeoff in SMB and Midmarket Segments, But Snapdragon Faces Hurdles

A new type of computer is gaining traction: the Artificial Intelligence-powered PC, or AI PC for short.  At Microsoft Build 2024, Microsoft and its leading PC partners, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, unveiled a new class of laptops, Copilot+ PCs, explicitly built for artificial intelligence (AI).  These laptops are powered by powerful Snapdragon® X Plus processors, exceeding 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS), and deliver long-lasting battery life and access to cutting-edge AI models. 

The personal computer market is undergoing a significant shift, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and upper midmarket companies are paying close attention.  A recent study by Techaisle, covering 1410 SMBs and Midmarket firms in the US, suggests a potential surge in demand for these innovative machines within these business sectors. 

High Awareness Paves the Way for Adoption

The study reveals a high level of awareness and purchase intention among SMBs and midmarket firms, painting a promising picture of the market potential of AI PCs. A significant 77% of SMBs and an impressive 86% of upper midmarket firms are already familiar with AI PCs, demonstrating a high level of awareness and understanding of the potential benefits of AI technology for their productivity and operations. This awareness is not just passive, as the study reveals that a substantial 32% of SMBs and a much higher 64% of midmarket firms are actively planning to purchase AI PCs, indicating a strong market potential and the confidence these businesses have in the technology. This robust purchase intention signals a significant market shift and underscores the potential for widespread adoption in the near future. Moreover, 40% of SMBs are considering evaluating AI PCs before making a purchase decision, hinting at the possibility of even broader adoption in the coming years.

AI PCs are projected to dent the PC market within 3-5 years substantially. SMBs, known for their agility in responding to market trends, will likely mirror this trend. With 54% of SMBs planning to invest in new PCs in the next 12 months, AI PCs could become a decisive factor in purchasing decisions.

The study also uncovers some intriguing insights into SMB priorities. While 14% of SMBs view AI PCs as a crucial upgrade, and another 12% are considering a strategic shift towards them, a substantial portion (24%) see no compelling reason to adopt this new technology. However, 58% of SMBs report that their employees are actively requesting AI PCs. This highlights a potential disparity between management and employees regarding the perceived benefits of AI technology, suggesting the need for better communication and alignment.

The study identifies potential early adopters of AI PCs within the employee base. These are the content creators, tech-savvy departments, and executives in corner offices. Creative and design professionals top the list (45%), followed by IT development (27%) and sales and marketing teams (26%). These departments will likely benefit most from AI PCs' enhanced processing power and AI-powered features.

Copilot Gains Traction, But Snapdragon Faces Recognition Hurdle

The Techaisle study delves deeper, exploring the potential for Copilot, a new software solution designed to unlock the true power of AI PCs. Awareness is high, with over half (54%) of SMBs and a staggering majority (89%) of upper midmarket firms recognizing the name.  Despite its recent launch, nearly half of these businesses already know about Copilot+ PCs.

However, adoption intent dips regarding Copilot+ PCs powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors. This hesitation stems from a few key factors. Limited brand awareness compared to the established giant Intel is a significant hurdle. Concerns about compatibility with existing applications and potential issues with peripherals further dampen enthusiasm. Many SMBs are adopting a wait-and-see approach, holding out for the announcement of Intel-based Copilot+ PCs, hoping these systems will offer similar features and impressive battery life.

Despite the growing hype around AI PCs, the study reveals some interesting realities regarding PC selection criteria for SMBs. While GPU/NPU might be a consideration, it does not reign supreme. For SMBs, the top five priorities when choosing a PC remain long battery life, a processor with built-in security features, ample storage capacity, a high-resolution display, and biometric login options.

Anurag Agrawal

HP's Path to Transformation: Embracing Innovation

In the ever-evolving technological landscape, businesses often stand at a crossroads, compelled to adapt to emerging trends and customer needs. HP, a renowned player in the personal computing arena, remains committed to adapting to changing trends and meeting customer needs. This year alone, the company has unveiled over 150 products. At the inaugural HP Imagine 2023 event, it showcased a range of products and solutions centered around three key trends shaping its offerings: workplace flexibility, the use of AI to enhance productivity and transform PCs into “personal companions,” and the importance of trust—aligning HP’s values with its customers, with a strong focus on sustainability.

HP has demonstrated its adaptability by launching two innovative products: the HP Spectre Foldable PC and the HP Envy Move. It has also introduced Managed Collaboration Services and HP Protect and Trace with Wolf Connect to address users’ productivity and endpoint security needs. Furthermore, it has expanded its collaboration offerings with the launch of the Poly Studio R30+ Bundle. The company also emphasizes enhancing partner growth and customer experiences, as evidenced by its partner ecosystem, including the HP Amplify program.

HP’s Innovative Solutions for Flexible Work Environments: The Spectre Foldable PC and Envy Move

HP’s innovation is significantly driven by what it calls the ‘era of flexibility.’ The swift shift towards hybrid and remote work arrangements in recent years has necessitated organizations to adapt to fluctuating work environments. Consequently, HP is dedicated to offering adaptable solutions, such as devices that effortlessly adjust to diverse work settings, ranging from kitchen counters to executive boardrooms. In alignment with this commitment, it has unveiled two state-of-the-art products – the HP Spectre Foldable PC and the HP Envy Move.

The HP Spectre Foldable PC touted as the world’s thinnest and smallest foldable PC, is a 17-inch, 3-in-1 device that serves as a laptop, tablet, and desktop, ensuring versatility and portability. Its foldable screen enables it to morph into a large tablet compatible with a stylus, a 12.3-inch laptop coupled with a detachable Bluetooth keyboard, and a desktop PC equipped with a built-in kickstand. This device offers flexibility without compromising performance, making it an optimal choice for mobile professionals needing a robust and adaptable computing solution.

The HP Envy Move is another innovative device, a 23.8-inch portable PC hailed as the world’s only movable all-in-one PC. This product caters to the needs of home-based workers, offering flexibility and mobility. It can be effortlessly relocated from one room to another without being bound to a power source. Its built-in handle, lightweight design, and self-deploying kickstand make it perfect for remote workers seeking a large screen without the bulkiness of a traditional laptop.

The Future of AI with HP: Personalized PCs and Collaborative Data Science Platforms

Anurag Agrawal

Dell XPS 13 – Straight from the heart

Since the last 3 years I have been listening to Jeff Clarke, Dell’s vice-chairman of Operations and president of Client Solutions, and his team talk about innovation within Dell and how XPS-13, Dell’s flagship, initially consumer-focused and now business-ready notebook, is one of the most innovative laptops in the market. I must confess that after every meeting I walked away with a bit of cynicism. Every single time I had questions but no answers. Did a borderless InfinityEdge display define innovation? Did premium materials explain innovation? Did high-performance describe innovation? What about the issues that small businesses really cared about – improve productivity, provide security, easy manageability, exceptional support and low price? These would certainly count towards innovation. But then many of these improvements are usually driven by underlying software and not the hardware.

I have been a ThinkPad user for most of my working life – from my IDC days in Hong Kong to present time at Techaisle. Except for the time period when I was at Gartner. I am not a case of old-habits-die-hard but I have had a genuine admiration for the IBM & now Lenovo ThinkPad series. It never needed any support, except for that one occasion when I foolishly crushed it that cracked the screen. There was also a period as an analyst when I maintained three different brands. HP notebooks to bring to meetings with HP, IBM/Lenovo for their respective meetings, and Dell for meetings with Dell. However, I realized that a ThinkPad brand was one of the most non-controversial notebook to bring to meetings & presentations without evoking any sarcastic banter.

Full disclosure - one day, two months ago, Dell sent me an XPS 13, fully-loaded with the Intel 7th gen Core i7 processor, 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive, QHD InfinityEdge Touch Screen, and 3 years of Premium Support services. Within a few days of using it I realized the meaning of innovation. Innovation in design. Innovation in support. Innovation in marketing.

Let us begin backwards. Innovation in marketing. XPS 13 has become synonymous with notebook much like MacBook or ThinkPad. I do not even know what brands of HP have the same level of desirability and emotional connect. Some may say HP Spectre, but I do not think so. And ThinkPads are not even targeted at consumer segment, they are not usually available in technology retail stores, so they miss out on the small business market. If price is not the only purchase criteria then XPS 13 is the brand to own. Dell’s marketing has also been bolstered by the numerous awards XPS 13 has been winning which feeds back into its marketing motions. XPS 13 also tends to be first to market with new technologies and gets more frequent refreshes than Dell’s business laptop products. And it also helps how the model is displayed in a retail store – makes it look real cool. So far, I have not experienced any complaints from PC OEMs when fishing out the XPS 13 from my bag for presentations.

I also experienced innovation in support. Not willing to take help from my IT to configure my new notebook to my exacting specifications I decided to call Dell’s premium support. A quick connect with technician, Brandon A, made me realize that my support request was very unique and was not included within the knowledgebase. I was ready to give up but the technician stayed on the call, spent the next two hours and successfully replicated XPS 13 configuration with that of ThinkPad. I also learned that Premium support includes a proactive support feature, SupportAssist, where Dell support experts actually contact the user if they detect an issue.

This type of support is ideal for SMBs. Latest Techaisle survey shows that smaller businesses use friends, internal non-IT personnel or channel partner for support, almost always reactive. Larger small businesses use internal IT but data shows that they would rather be focused on strategic IT issues than supporting PCs. 57% mention that managing newer PCs is significantly easier which allows unmanaged IT businesses to run their business without disruption and businesses with IT staff are able to efficiently reallocate the staff’s time to other initiatives. Interestingly, 56% also agree that new PCs reduce overall maintenance costs. And if SMBs opt for Dell's ProSupport and even ProDeploy they may gain even better advantages.

Design is an important element of a mobile device. But like every other SMB executive, the design should contribute to improved productivity and better mobility experience. I am one of those 39% of SMB employees who spend 20+% time away from primary workplace. Being an analyst and a data hound I constantly work on spreadsheets, data visualizations, analytics and presentations, typically seated in tight places – the airplanes, United Club lounges and occasionally in the back seat of ride-sharing vehicles. The placement of cursor in the precise location on the screen is very important to me. The XPS 13’s precision touchpad with integrated glass is much appreciated. It is responsive, not overly sensitive to slight movements and gets my work done without having to erase and retrace. In contrast, I have had to disable the touchpad on ThinkPad and only use the red trackpoint. By the way, has anyone tried using the trackpoint while munching on snacks in airplanes or with the laptop on the lap? The trackpoint assumes a track movement of its own.

The Dell InfinityEdge display also gives me a bright and clearly visible real estate to view and play around with massive amounts of data or create crammed-with-data PowerPoint slides. The chiclet keyboard with “just–enough” shallow depth also helps, although the too-narrow arrow keys are annoying. I really do not use the touch screen a lot but the few times I did use I found the display hinge to be stable enough to avoid exasperating shaking.

I consider myself to be a very organized person, but recently I did the unfathomable: I flew to the east coast for a 2-hour client presentation but forgot to bring my XPS 13 power adapter. By the time I returned the following evening from my coast-to-coast flight there was still enough battery power left in my notebook to reply to emails before plugging it back into the adapter for charging. By the way, one must buy the add-on Power Companion which extends the notebook’s battery life and also charges other mobile devices simultaneously. Living dangerously is not my calling so I made a note to get a spare charger. But if I ever make that grievous error again, then at least I can take comfort in the battery life of XPS 13 and the Power Companion.

XPS 13 is somewhat heavier than the ThinkPad I have been using, I can easily make out the difference as soon as I pick up the notebook in one hand. The Power Companion and the necessary Adapter to connect USB-C port to HDMI or USB 3.0 makes it a little bulky, occupies space and adds to the “carry weight”. But they are not inconvenient.

Collaboration is essential to me and video collaboration is integral when traveling. The placement of the webcam on XPS 13 throws me off but I understand that in the newly announced XPS 13 2 in 1 version the webcam has been put back in its rightful place, at the center.

All of the above experiences point to a device that improves productivity, especially mobility-enabled productivity. Techaisle’s survey also shows that 62% of small businesses experience better mobility with newer PCs thus empowering their workforce. Nearly identical percent say that newer applications run better, and more applications can be run simultaneously contributing to less frustration and improved productivity.

When purchasing a laptop, competitive benchmark comparisons are important but they are certainly not the deciding criteria. Millennials have a different selection criteria; I listen to them as well. After all, 51% of US SMB employees are millennials. Even within my household, when my son and daughter, both millennials, wanted to replace their respective notebooks, they were clear in not getting an HP brand. “No HP decision” was driven by – previous painful product experiences, prolonged and unpredictable support, not-so captivating design of recent products and unflattering word-of-mouth from my son’s fellow college friends.

I took my son and daughter, on different days, to the Microsoft Store and bought each one of them a Dell XPS 13. It was an easy decision for them. Last time I checked, they were very happy. I hope that my initial euphoria stays intact and there will not be any reason to retract and redact my new connect with XPS 13. As of now, I will retract my cynicism.

Anurag Agrawal

SMB Shadow IT, BDM spending amount to nearly $100 billion in the US alone

Is IT losing its authority over IT expenditures and directions? Data from the Techaisle report “The 360 on SMB & Midmarket IT Decision Making Authority” suggests that increasingly, business decision makers (BDMs) make technology-related decisions and control technology-related budgets.

The report finds that SMB “Shadow IT” in the US – expenditures made by business management without IT involvement – will amount to $27 billion in 2015. Added to the “formal” IT budget that is visible to IT but under BDM management, technology spending by US SMBs that is outside the control of the IT department will reach $99 billion, a figure that is greater than Microsoft’s annual revenue, twice the revenue of Cisco, and nearly 25 times larger than the revenue recorded by Salesforce.com in its fiscal 2014.

The data clearly illustrates that the earth has shifted from underneath the IT department within small and midmarket businesses. Executives in these companies need to understand what these new spending patterns mean to IT deployment and efficiency within their operations, while suppliers to this market – business application vendors like Microsoft and Salesforce.com, hardware vendors like HP and Dell, and the thousands of services firms that help US SMBs to make sense of technology – need to adjust to the changing patterns of SMB IT investment and control.

Shadow IT is a commonly-understood phenomenon: it represents spending on IT products and services by BDMs that are made without the IT department’s approval, guidance, or in some cases, even without IT’s knowledge. IT itself generally portrays these purchases as dangerous to the organization, creating the potential for security breaches, incompatibility between corporate systems, inconsistency in corporate systems of record, and/or loss of critical data. BDMs tend to portray them differently, positioning these purchases as IT extensions to current business activities that respond to business needs more quickly and directly than the IT department is capable of doing.

Whatever one’s perspective on shadow IT, it is clearly an important force in the SMB IT market. How important has been a matter of conjecture, since by its nature, shadow IT is difficult to isolate and quantify. However, by comparing multiple data sets from surveys that capture both ITDM and BDM perspectives, Techaisle is able to provide fact-based estimates of shadow IT activity within US SMBs. Highlights of these findings include:

Shadow IT spending on business applications

Authority for “formal” business application spending varies widely between small and midmarket businesses. However, the overall level of shadow IT spending on business applications is very consistent across the two SMB segments, at 15 percent of total small business application spending and 14 percent of midmarket business spending. In addition, business management (BDMs) within SMBs formally controls over 50 percent of business application expenditures.

Shadow IT spending on infrastructure products

The infrastructure products market is much different than the business application market – both across small and midmarket businesses and with respect to the influence of IT over “formal” purchases. The influence of IT is much greater in the infrastructure category than in business applications: IT is responsible for 23 percent of infrastructure spending within small businesses and controls well over 50 percent of total spending on infrastructure within midmarket businesses.

Overall, shadow IT accounts for 56 percent of small business infrastructure expenditures. The enormous shadow infrastructure spends by small business indicates a clear problem for small business IT managers, and realistically, for small businesses themselves: the notions that shadow IT creates security and related issues are not merely an IT construct, it is a real issue. Suppliers with solutions that help address shadow infrastructure problems (such as MDM, managed app stores, etc.) will find a very substantial potential market in the US small business segment.

Shadow IT spending on IT services

BDM-led spending on IT services has different implications in different employee size categories: in small business, it often represents an authorized or “formal” spending on mainstream IT services, while in larger businesses, it may represent a means of avoiding IT department involvement in new IT/business initiatives. Techaisle data supports this perspective. BDMs control 35 percent of IT services spend in midmarket businesses. The shadow IT spending within the midmarket – pegged by Techaisle at 48 percent of the total – creates an intriguing opportunity for IT services suppliers. “Official” suppliers to midmarket businesses may continue to sell to IT, which controls a higher proportion of the formal IT services budget than their BDM colleagues. However, when shadow IT is added into the opportunity pool, BDMs are as potent a force in the midmarket business IT services market as ITDMs. This suggests that two different approaches – positioning IT services firm as an extension to IT, or as an alternative to IT – have equivalent market opportunity today.

Research You Can Rely On | Analysis You Can Act Upon

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