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Reusing PCs: Microsoft Highlights Partner Refurbisher Opportunity

A central tenet of the environmental movement is that when it comes to cutting down on waste, it's best to reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order.

As the environment got its due on Earth Day Friday, a Microsoft OEM executive provided an update on the refurbishment channel, which is an opportunity for partners to help new customers reuse old systems -- and profit from the process.

In an e-mail interview, Robert Bostwick, manager of U.S. OEM at Microsoft, said the refurbishment market has seen year-over-year growth, there's been a shift to Windows 7 PCs from Windows XP in the secondary PC market and that the number of refurbisher partners is growing.

The most widely quoted figure about refurbishment is the 35 million commercially resold systems included in the Gartner Secondary PC Market Study from 2008, which included worldwide figures for 2007.

"Since the Gartner study was published in 2008, we estimate the yearly addressable market to have increased close to 25 percent, to more than 46 million units worldwide," Bostwick said.

The partner opportunity in the secondary PC market includes IT Asset Disposition to recycling to remarketing, Bostwick noted. Asked the value of the refurbishment market, Bostwick said it is difficult to quantify but he added, "If you looked at the average selling price of a secondary PC sold for commercial purposes being in the $100 range, this is easily a multi-billion dollar industry globally."

Among refurbished PCs, more and more are Windows 7, Bostwick said. "A growing trend with Windows 7-capable machines is also occurring. The PC refresh cycle has reached the point where refurbished Windows XP machines have begun to fade as the focus of the secondary PC market," he said.

The number of Microsoft partners in that secondary PC market is also growing. The big partners are called Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers, or MARs. Worldwide there are 64 MARs. But Microsoft has a broader group of partners that used to be called Community MARs. In 2010, Microsoft relaunched the Community MAR category as the Registered Refurbisher Program.

"This program is for small and medium-sized refurbishers across the globe that wish to supply refurbished PCs preinstalled with Microsoft software, both commercially to local consumers, as well as to qualified charities, non-profits, schools, and government programs. More than 2,500 RRPs have registered worldwide with Microsoft to date," he said.

For more about the refurbisher market, see our article profiling Austin, Texas-based MAR TechTurn Inc. from last April.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 25, 2011