What to do with the estimated 50% of PCs out there still running that long obsolete OS, XP? Many are useless for “7” because of low memory. Refurbishment could be a growth industry in 2011 because either adding memory to these machines and/or a new OS could be viable. Licences for XP are generally not portable so refurbishers will need to install a new OS.

To make a viable business of refurbishment of older PCs, one has to be able to sell at a price less than a low end PC but more than the cost of pickup, refurbishment, sales and distribution. That would be tight as new desktop PCs start at around $300 and costs could easily be more than $100. GNU/Linux would help costs by $100 or so. Costs could also be offset by charging a bit for pickup or refurbishment could be done in place, eliminating pickup, sales and distribution costs.

One business along these lines has been announced in UK but they are aiming low, 8000 units a year. That’s peanuts compared to the size of the opportunity. They seek to supply low-end consumers. There’s a large opportunity for mainstream consumers of PCs. What other business can look at cost of materials being so low compared to the value of the end-product?

The main problem with refurbishment as a business is that the largest supply is in established markets and the largest demand for refurbished PCs is in emerging markets, making distribution costs huge. Conversion to thin clients may be the way to go as the demand for that in established market regions is pretty good at the moment. I expect many XP machines to be refurbished in place and converted to GNU/Linux or PXE booting to be thin clients of GNU/Linux terminal servers. That gets the most value for the resource, improves performance and allows users to keep familiar hardware.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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