Used PCs still being dumped despite high demand

Only 44 percent of computers entering the secondary market end up in the hands of a new owner, despite the fact that worldwide demand is greater than supply.

More used computers could be reused; only 44 percent of computers entering the secondary market end up in the hands of a new owner, despite the fact that worldwide demand for such computers is greater than supply, according to a Gartner report.

Export tariffs and high transportation costs are restricting exports from mature markets to emerging markets. Environmental legislation is also making it harder for low-volume players to compete, according to Gartner.

Demand is growing fastest in the Middle East, Africa and emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific region, in particular China. The largest exporters of secondary PCs are North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.

As pressure increases on developing countries to accept used PCs as a viable technology solution for more basic computing tasks such as Internet surfing and Web e-mail, demand is likely to grow, said Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner.

But competition for second-hand PCs is increasing as the average selling price of new PCs falls, and as buyers increasingly prefer notebooks with the most-recent specifications, or ultralow-cost mini-notebooks.

Nevertheless, "We expect that most buyers of used PCs will prefer a higher-specification A-branded PC over a basic mini-notebook," said Escherich.

In the end, business is generally good for the commercial resale of secondary PCs, and it is not uncommon for refurbished PCs to offer equal or even better margin opportunities than new PCs, according to Escherich.

Resellers' success depends on their ability to get their hands on multiple PCs of the same configuration, mainly provided by large and midsize businesses and government agencies, rather than dealing with individual systems.

Meanwhile, the United Nations this week released a publication titled ‘The Entrepreneur's Guide to Computer Recycling’.

The UN says the purpose of the guide is to help develop the skills required to handle the “growing flux of waste generated by the market for new and used computers so as to protect the environment and public health”.

Although the guide promotes responsible disposal of PCs, it also supports Gartner belief in a greater reuse of PCs.

“Reuse of obsolete or unwanted IT and computer equipment is the preferred option, rather than destruction,” according to a UN statement. “It allows other users to benefit from the equipment at low cost, extends the return on energy and resources used in manufacturing the products and reduces the quantity of devices entering the waste stream.”

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Mikael Ricknäs

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