Used computer market expanding by leaps and bounds
BY SHU NOMURA STAFF WRITER
Sofmap's Akihabara outlet doubled the floor space for used computers. (Asahi Shimbun)
The market for used PCs is heating up, with sales doubling over the last five years.
In fiscal 2010, sales exceeded 2 million units for the first time. The figure represents 10 percent of the overall domestic computer market.
A major reason for the increase is more protection for buyers and sellers against misuse of data left on used computers and a cheaper way to replace the operating system (OS), which reduces the use of pirated operating systems.
According to the Refurbished (Reuse) and Recycle Information Technology Equipment Association (RIETA), 2.019 million used computers were sold in Japan in fiscal 2010, an increase of 5 percent over the previous year.
The sales figure has increased in every year since fiscal 2006, when statistics were first compiled.
A major reason for the increase is a wider range of available models.
According to RIETA officials, previously there were no rules for trading used computers and there had been instances where personal information left on hard drives had been used for illicit purposes.
Such incidents led only a few people to sell their old computers, so there was a limit on the available models.
Industry officials felt that unless the used computer market became more active there would not be a move toward trading in old computers to buy new ones.
In 2006, RIETA was established through the efforts of various groups, including the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association.
The association established guidelines for erasing data and companies that followed those guidelines in purchasing used computers were certified.
Now, many of the major companies that handle used computers are certified.
Another issue that had to be addressed was the fact that many used computers were sold without an operating system.
That led to the sales of pirated OS over the Internet.
Such trends led Microsoft of the United States to begin an effort in 2009 to eliminate pirated OS.
Microsoft began selling its OS to companies that sold used computers at cost plus shipping costs.
Microsoft also began offering at lower prices from January word processing and spreadsheet software.
That move allowed consumers to purchase used computers with an OS and other business software preinstalled.
A RIETA executive, said, "More people are purchasing used computers because even small businesses can acquire the machines without worry. There has been an increase in the number of cases of companies buying in bulk."
Retail outlets have also begun taking measures in response to the expanding used computer market.
The Akihabara outlet devoted to used equipment operated by Sofmap Co. doubled the floor space devoted to used laptop computers from February.
Bic Camera Inc. also began a simplified appraisal system from February when buying used computers in order to increase the range of available models.