Laptops in Corp Land?

I started reading this article over on Arstechnica and the more I thought about it I still see a fundamental flaw in their logic. To quickly summarize, the article makes a case for why very soon desktops will only “appeal to a niche market” even in the corporate world. Since employees are traveling significantly more and mobile broadband provides reasonable coverage laptops will soon dominate the corporate market. The article continues about how laptops serve as a viable extension for ones personality, and if you’ve been paying attention, you will know how annoying I find that.

Even still, I will concede the home market. If you have been paying attention you would have heard that notebooks now outnumber desktops in terms of sales and I don’t see much reversing this trend, in the home market.

The corporate market, are you kidding me? Clearly the author sees the corporate employees as a bunch of busy bees just buzzing their way around the country for months on end. Only returning home to the hive for the occasional meeting and suckle of honey (take that as you will). Perhaps Mr. Reisinger has been eating too may dinners out with his journalist cohorts because although people are traveling more, not nearly on the scale that he is implying. Without sounding too green, I might venture to say that most non-sales people probably spend about the same time on vacation then they do traveling for work. There are, however, practical uses for laptops which don’t require an airport or gas stations. Having a laptop to take around the office, into meetings, even home can be quite convenient and is probably where most laptops get their use. When you think about these three cases you will mention the fundamental struggle with laptops: Size/Portability vs. Usability. For the most part, the bigger the laptop the most usable it is (bigger screen, full sized keyboard, track pad) and the less portable it is (larger, heavier). Yes, some laptops make better use of space then others, but it’s rarely by much. Based on my empirical (and utterly unscientific) study I’ve found that the median home laptop is 15” while business laptop would be 14”. Like I said before, this is because business users travel more, albeit still not very much.

One thing that becomes apparent when looking at laptops however is that they are not even close to desktops in terms of usability. Clearly a smaller monitor has a pretty large effect on usability, but even worse is mice. Trackpads are the most popular “pointing device” in laptops and basically the only improvement we have seen in them over the past many years are the scroll bars. Multi-touch you say? Meh, wake me up when you can do something interesting. And if you have the ThinkPad “TrackPoint”? Ouch.

Wait a minute, why not just buy a docking station and you get the best of both worlds. Well you smart cookie, that’s a good point. You get the portability of a laptop since you can undock it and take it with you, and when its at your desk you can use full size peripherals. Unfortunately one other thing you will get with a dock is a lighter wallet, they do not come cheap at all. Why pay $300 for a docking station when you can get a whole new desktop for $500?

If you aren’t yet convinced that laptops wont be taking over the corporate landscape any time soon you should take a look back over this article, because you must be missing something.


Unknown said...

I completely think desktops will be gone in most corporations soon. Yes you can get really cheap desktops, compared to laptops + docks, however think about 5 years ago when it cost ~$1000 for a mediocre desktop. Now for under $1000 you can get a laptop and a dock which likely wont become obsolete. I make this last statement as I notice almost no difference between using my 3 year old desktop and my 1 month year old laptop.

Sure businesses want to cut costs, but if their employees want laptops then it wont break the bank to do so.

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