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Computer hardware upgrades and iPhone OS 4: When software spurs buying

As an iPhone 3G owner, I was very excited to hear about the Apple iPhone’s newest operating system, the iPhone OS 4 software upgrade, planned for deployment this summer. Actually, I’ve never felt that my iPhone was lacking because I couldn’t run simultaneous applications, but I must admit I’ve been impressed by friends’ smartphones that provide sports scores, let users write e-mails and cook a five-course brunch — all at once.

My anticipation quickly dissipated when I learned that many iPhone OS 4 features — including, most notably, multitasking — wouldn’t filter down to the 3G (nor to the original iPhone and iPod Touch versions that preceded it). Yes, I might still have access to application folders (so I won’t need five full screens of apps) and the upgraded e-mail functions, but no multitasking for me. I immediately started to consider whether the software update would make it worth my while to trade up to a snazzy new iPhone this summer, 3GS or otherwise. TBD. Let’s see if my tax refund materializes.

It dawned on me that this is what enterprise CIOs must debate when it comes to computer hardware upgrades, and I expect the issue to be particularly pertinent in 2010. A recent Morgan Stanley survey of 150 CIOs found that technology budgets will be up 3.2% in 2010, a 1.5% increase from January, when the same survey was done. Computer hardware upgrades lead the spending spike, with a planned 4.1% increase, followed by a 3.7% increase in software spending.

I suspect a lot of this jump represents delayed demand. Many enterprises held off on computer hardware upgrades last year, when the recession was in its deepest doldrums, as they hunkered down and did more with less. Why buy new desktops when the old ones would do?

But while hunkering down and holding the line might have worked in 2009, it likely won’t fly in 2010, when companies are under increasing pressure to not only survive, but to show increasing revenues as well. So, what happens if a new software or delivery model is the key to building your revenue, but you don’t have the hardware to support it?

I’m guessing a simple tax refund won’t be enough to buy all those new desktops or laptops in your organization. What’s your strategy for computer hardware upgrades in 2010?

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