Tablets are high on the 2012 shopping lists of small- to mid-sized business hardware buyers at companies based in the United States, according to NPD Group's latest SMB survey. And Apple's iPad remains the top preferred brand among purchasing decision makers at U.S. companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, which collectively employ 121 million people.
NPD reports that 73 percent of the nation's SMBs overall intend to spend more on tablets in 2012 -- up from 68 percent of the respondents to a similar NDP survey conducted in this year's second quarter. Moreover, 90 percent expect to spend the same amount or more on tablets over the next 12 months.
Though many industry observers have predicted that the rising sales of tablets would lead to PC cannibalization, NPD's latest survey demonstrates that less than 20 percent of SMBs overall expect to cut their PC purchases during the year ahead.
"Spending continues on PCs, and on tablets, and few companies -- even the smallest ones -- are significantly reallocating their spending away from the personal computing needs of their employees," said NPD Vice President Stephen Baker.
"As we head into 2012, the SMB market continues to provide an important source of volume and dollars to the PC market," Baker wrote in a Thursday blog post.
SMB PC Spending Intentions
According to Baker, the heightened interest that SMBs have expressed about acquiring tablets for their employees next year by no means equates to the death of the PC market.
"The combination, however, of the length of time since the Windows 7 launch, the need to spend on higher cost infrastructure, and the increased spending on tablets has clearly put a crimp on PC spending intentions -- especially among the largest firms," Baker explained.
NPD's SMB Technology Monitor reports that 36 percent of the businesses surveyed with fewer than 50 employees said they expect to increase their spending on PCs during the year ahead. Moreover, Baker observed that their average spend of $3,400 would equate to upgrading 10 percent to 15 percent of each firm's PC base.
Only 23 percent of SMBs with 501-999 employees expect to spend more on PCs in 2012, with the average spend approaching $75,000. According to Baker, this would likewise equate to replacing around 10 percent to 15 percent of the installed base at these larger firms.
Apple Leads the Field
By contrast, 89 percent of U.S. SMBs with 501 to 999 workers plan to make new tablet purchases next year. What's more, a significant majority of companies with 201 to 500 employees (81 percent) and 50 to 200 workers (70 percent) intend to follow suit. And at the smallest companies with less than 50 workers, 54 percent plan on making new tablet purchases and with 88 percent expecting to either increase or maintain 2011 spending levels.
"Businesses of all sizes appear to be determined to capitalize on the tablet phenomenon," Baker said. "NPD's research shows that iPad purchase preference is higher among larger firms than smaller ones, which is an important indicator that Apple is gaining traction far outside its typical consumer space."
NPD's new survey did not attempt to gauge the impact that Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 operating system for PCs and tablets might have on the 2012 purchasing decisions of SMBs. "We ask about what people intend to do now and what their plans are based on what they know today," Baker said in a Thursday e-mail.
In other words, NPD did not ask respondents "to speculate on what they might do under a different set of circumstances in the future" nor query "about any potential impact of Windows 8," Baker added.