Desktop PCs in Decline as Notebooks Surge

Information technology researcher Meta Group predicts that less than half of all corporate computer users will use a desktop as their primary information device within two years. A new report from the research firm highlights the mobile-computing trend that has been boosted by lower laptop prices, increased mobile performance and the popularity of wireless connectivity.

Meta Group said that by 2006, just 45 percent of corporate users will be primarily dependent on a desktop machine. Another 40 percent of users will count a notebook or tablet PC as their primary device, while another 15 percent will be using thin clients or other information appliances, such as handhelds, according to Meta.

The firm said a key factor in the rise of notebooks and decline of desktops is the increasing number of users who will be equipped with multiple devices over and above the current combination of PCs and mobile phones.

“By 2007, the average user will interact regularly with at least four distinct computing devices — a personal home PC, smart digital entertainment system, corporate computer and mobile information device,” said Meta Group vice president Steve Kleynhans. “This multiplicity of devices will force software vendors to focus on information synchronization as well as ‘thinning’ or ‘roaming’ applications that enable users to access their information independent of the device they are using.”

Mobile March

Aberdeen Group chief research officer Peter Kastner told TechNewsWorld that with consumer and corporate notebook computers “flying off the shelves,” the mobile segment of the PC industry has become the fastest growing — prompting PC producers, chipmakers and software vendors to focus on the market.

Driven by the consumer market and strong demand, notebook computers led the way as worldwide PC shipments hit record numbers last quarter, according to research from IDC.

IDC analyst Alan Promisel told TechNewsWorld that the firm credits lower price points, increased performance and increased demand for mobility for the notebook surge. He said IDC expects portable PCs to continue taking market share from desktop PCs through 2007.

“In the U.S., we’re forecasting portables to compose 47 percent of all PC shipments in 2007,” Promisel said. “I think there’s going to be a balance that will be right around 50 percent beyond that.”

Tablets and Smart Displays

While Meta Group indicated the current tablet PC form factor without an integrated keyboard is not functional enough for most office workers as their only computing device, tablet PCs will improve, while the cost of digitizers, digital ink and pen-enabled applications will decrease.

Meta said those trends will help move the tablet form factor into the mainstream by 2006, when one-third of all corporate notebooks will include tablet capabilities.

The research firm also said the smart devices that wirelessly connect users to their PCs may reappear in the corporate world as users seek to access e-mail, instant messaging and the Internet as they shuffle between meetings.

“The devices could even be shared among users or possibly kept in meeting rooms,” Kleynhans said. “Any costs should be outweighed by the increase in meeting productivity for most knowledge workers.”

Desktop Destiny

While both Meta Group and IDC predict notebooks will take a bigger slice of the total PC pie at the expense of desktop computers, Promisel indicated desktops still will serve prominently in the offices and homes of the future.

“I think the future home will be a networked home with a desktop or several desktop-like PCs sharing media content,” he said.

He added that desktop computers will continue to offer higher performance at lower cost, which is attractive in many corporate settings.

“Not everyone needs mobility, so they’re not going to pay for it,” Promisel said.

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