Tech Industry

PC use jumps at small firms

Lured by low-price systems and the growing importance of the Internet, small businesses are increasingly jumping on the PC bandwagon.

Lured by low-price systems and the growing importance of the Internet, small businesses are increasingly jumping on the PC technology bandwagon.

The percentage of businesses with a maximum of 100 employees

Small businesses
with PCs
Year Percent
1992 67
1993 69
1994 71
1995 73
1996 73
1997 78
Source: IDC/LINK
using or planning to use PCs, software, printers, and the Internet in 1997 jumped to 78 percent after several years of flat or modest gains, according to a new study from market research firm IDC/LINK.

Businesses like local real estate, insurance, and law enforcement agencies are driving the surge in technology adoption, the study found. These firms are using low-cost PCs and peripherals for everything from bookkeeping and accounting applications to email and Web-based applications.

The percentage of small businesses using the Internet has more than doubled in the last year, from 19.7 percent in 1996 to 40.7 percent in 1997. Warren Childs, one of the authors of the study, believes that this jump is an important indicator that the small business market is also an area for networking firms to target.

"The typical scenario in terms of Internet usage is individual dial-up accounts, which is expensive and not a very efficient way to send email," Childs said. "In the next few months, these people will need to find a way to manage sharing that access," referring to the need to move to a more networked approach.

Childs also pointed out that PC makers struggling with the razor-thin profit margins of the popular sub-$1,000 PCs can exploit the need for pricier portable computers in the small business market.

"In a company with less than four or five employees, there will typically be two to three PCs. Increasingly, one of those will be a portable computer," he said.

The study, an annual survey of 1,011 small business IS managers and buyers, estimated that of the nation's 7.3 million small businesses, 5.6 million now use computers.