HP sells PCs in a new way as it tries to speed upgrades

Companies can buy PCs, support and services for one monthly fee with HP's device-as-a-service offering

hp chromebook 11 G5

HP's Chromebook 11 G5.

Credit: HP

As the PC upgrade cycle slows down, HP is hoping to revive sales with a new devices-and-services pitch. 

The vendor's device-as-a-service program, announced Thursday, gives companies the option of paying a monthly fee for a combination of PCs, support and services instead of paying for everything up front.

With many businesses waiting five or six years to upgrade PCs, the new plan, which is is similar to the software-as-a-service model, could push users to refresh hardware at a faster pace. It's like renting a PC and paying in installments, but with added benefits. 

HP takes care of support, deployment, related services and everything needed in a big PC installation. Payments are spread over months or years, and HP can tack on printing services.

It's targeted mostly at businesses that use PCs, handsets, thin clients, monitors and other devices.

The offering has some advantages. If you're a business owner, you don't have to worry about upgrading or managing a fleet of PCs. That's all handled by HP, and PCs will be upgraded in a timely manner. HP will also deploy software upgrades.

Under such a plan, a company's hardware budget should become more predictable, with a specific amount reflected in the monthly fee to HP.  And by reducing the need for user companies to have IT staffers support smartphones, tablets and PCs, the setup could potentially save users money -- at least theoretically.

The biggest caveat is that the device-as-a-service program requires users to hand control of PCs and devices to HP, and that means they lose some flexibility. Also, for users who love to hunt for discounts and do a good job of it, the service model could turn out to be more expensive in the long run. 

HP has for some time offered services contracts that allow users to pay for support over time, but it has required companies to purchase PCs up front.

But PC shipments are declining because companies no longer feel the need to upgrade their desktop and laptop systems as often as they once did -- even seven- and eight-year-old PCs are able to run Windows 10 and basic applications. On top of that, more work is being done on phones and tablets.

With the PC replacement cycle slowing, HP sees the device-as-a-service model as a way to gain some control over system upgrades and smooth out its revenue stream while giving its enterprise customers predictable IT costs.

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