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Welcome to the Year of the Predictable: Page 3 of 4

After two strange, surprising years, 2022 is shaping up to be refreshingly easier to handicap in markets ranging from cloud computing and security to storage and beyond. By Rich Freeman


So, according to Dell at least, does APEX, the as-a-service cloud infrastructure platform the company officially launched last May. “I think you’re going to see them push very hard on that,” says Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research. “They see the channel as, obviously, an important mechanism for them to get these as-a-service offerings out there.”

Bob O’Donnell

Microsoft, for its part, will have more than just Azure and Microsoft 365 going for it in the cloud this year, O’Donnell predicts. Though it may not be a breakout hit, Windows 365, the “cloud PC” platform that Microsoft rolled out in 2021, will soon begin transitioning from test deployments to full-scale production.

“It’s not for everybody, but there are certain applications, certain environments, where it makes a ton of sense,” says O’Donnell, citing call centers and temporary workers as examples.

With employees spending more time in the office but still collaborating with people at home, cloud-connected meeting room devices like Microsoft’s Surface Hub should have a strong year too. To realize their promise, O’Donnell notes, digital whiteboards must be capable of running the multiple videoconferencing solutions that most businesses use.

“Nobody in their right mind would want to buy something that limits them to a single platform,” O’Donnell says, “and yet you’ve still got some of these vendors, Microsoft and Zoom in particular, trying to push a single-platform hardware solution for a conference room.” Cisco, by contrast, announced plans to add cross-platform compatibility to its Webex hardware last October, and O’Donnell expects that move to yield dividends for the Silicon Valley giant this year.


Hardware makers reaped even greater dividends in 2021 from continued demand for office and work-from-home PCs. Global endpoint spending (excluding data center gear) was on track to rise 15.1% to nearly $802 billion last year, in fact, according to recent projections from Gartner.

Credit a small part of that sum to Roger Kay, president of analyst firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. He bought a sleek and speedy new notebook late last year. When he’s in his home office, he connects it to his 43-inch monitor, mouse, and external keyboard. When he’s on the road, he stashes it in his computer bag.

“That, I think, is sort of the ideal rig you want,” Kay says. “Big, comfortable, high-performance, and not too expensive when you’re in your own environment, and then you want some ability to go to other places.”

It’s a perfect formula, in fact, for hybrid workers who want to use one current-generation PC both at home and in the office, which is why laptop sales should remain strong well into 2022, Kay adds. In fact, non-data-center endpoint shipments will climb 2.3% this year, according to Gartner. That’s a significant slowdown from last year but a welcome change from the streak of annual sales declines that preceded the pandemic.

Roger Kay

Unless, of course, continued chip shortages mar that upbeat picture. “The chip supply is going to be a bit unpredictable,” says Kay, who sees something akin to normalcy returning sometime this spring or summer.

Assuming chips are available, Kay expects a crop of faster, more power-efficient Windows PCs, inspired in part by the impressive combination of speed and battery life in laptops bearing Apple’s M1 processor, to start showing up this year, along with videoconference-optimized desktop monitors that are even “bigger and denser and brighter and more beautiful” than predecessors from 2021.

The only downside to the endpoint picture, in fact, is that once the current purchasing wave is over it could be a while before another one forms, thanks to lengthening replacement cycles. “It was three to five [years] and it could go out to five to seven for most people because their devices still work,” Kay says.

Digital Signage

There’s plenty of hardware involved in digital signage, of course, which means the same product shortages impacting the PC and peripheral markets are impacting purchases of displays and media players as well.

“In conversations with the big distributors and several of the large integrators around the country, they’re having to adjust their businesses to the flow of goods coming and the availability,” says Alan Brawn, principal of advisory firm Brawn Consulting. “The economic momentum, aka demand, is there and growing but the supply will take some time to catch up.”

When it does, he continues, look for pent-up demand to drive brisk sales momentum—or rather, brisker.

“There was still growth of 6% to 8% in 2020 and into the first half of 2021,” Brawn says, stemming from pandemic-related sales of health monitoring solutions, traffic control systems, and touchless displays. 2022’s even higher spending, he believes, will be spurred by organizations in education, healthcare, and other verticals buying into the digital signage value proposition the way retailers did long ago.

Bigger displays, including dvLED panels, will account for only some of that higher spending, according to Brawn. “It’s the behind the scenes—pun intended—things that will drive the opportunities,” he says, including analytics and artificial intelligence software that mines digital signage usage records for trends and market opportunities.

About the Author

Rich Freeman's picture

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Founding Editor

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