Second-hand PC shipments tipped to boom

Used computers are increasingly popular in the developing world, thanks to PC upgrade cycles in the West and a certain reluctance to pay for software licences, says Gartner

Demand for second-hand PCs is soaring in parts of the developing world, analyst group Gartner reported on Wednesday.

Gartner has found that demand for used computers is outstripping supply in regions such as Eastern Europe; the Middle East and Africa; Latin America; and parts of the Asia-Pacific region — a trend it expects to accelerate over the next few years.

"The demand for [second-hand] PCs continues to exceed supply, providing opportunistic but potentially lucrative opportunities for specialised intermediaries and resellers or vendors looking to resell used PCs," said Meike Escherich, principal analyst for Gartner’s client platforms research group, in a statement.

These second-hand PCs will often have been used by a business or a consumer in America, Japan or Western Europe who has subsequently upgraded their computers. While their original machines may be much less powerful than the PCs available today, they will still be able to run an operating system like Windows XP or 2000, or possibly a Linux distribution. As such, they are suitable for applications like email and word processing.

Gartner estimates that for every two new PCs shipped to mature markets in 2005, one PC will be resold into developing markets. Currently, one in 12 PCs in use worldwide are second-hand.

One reason these PCs are valued, Gartner claimed, is that their new owners are unlikely to pay software licence fees.

"Unlike mature markets, operating system intellectual-property rights are rarely respected allowing lower resale values for secondary machines," said Escherich.

The introduction of the EU Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive is likely to increase the movement of second-hand PCs across the world, as it should prevent old machines simply being thrown away.

"With recycling legislation becoming more common, organizations will have a greater incentive to sell their used PCs," Escherich pointed out.

Several organisations already ship second-hand PCs to the developing world, including Computer Aid, a UK charity. Computer Aid runs a project called in conjunction with CNET Networks, publishers of ZDNet UK.

Back in February, Computer Aid shipped its 40,000th PC.