Desktop PC's Corporate Reign Fading with the Rise of Mobility

News Analysis: Desktop sales are shrinking and it's not just the economy that's to blame. The desire for mobility is making laptops, notebooks and now netbooks the choice for computing at the office as well as at home. A new study shows that while desktop sales are going to fall sharply this year, notebook shipments will show a substantial increase.

Although desktops were, at one point, integral to business operations at practically every organization around the world, today, they're on their way to becoming a relic of the past. Those desktops that were in almost every cubicle are being replaced with slim, lightweight and portable notebooks.

According to a recent study by research firm iSuppli, desktop shipments are expected to slide by 18.1 percent this year. At the same time, notebook shipments are expected to rise by 11.7 percent over the same period. iSuppli believes that this trend will continue through the prolonged recession. And although overall PC shipments will likely rise when the economy starts recovering, it's likely that notebook shipments will continue to outpace desktop purchases going forward.

It's an interesting time. Although notebooks are becoming more powerful than they've ever been, they are still less powerful (for the most part) than their desktop counterparts. So, it might seem counter-intuitive for a company to deploy notebooks, rather than more capable desktops. But the corporate world has changed. No longer is it tied to the office. And that's leading to the fall of desktops.

Mobility is one of the main reasons why desktops simply aren't the corporate juggernauts they once were. Today, more companies than ever want to send their employees out to client offices. They expect them to travel and they expect to them to work on the road. And since that's impossible with a desktop, notebooks have become the most obvious choice for the corporate world. Furthermore many people want the flexibility of working at home. Laptops and notebooks let workers bring the office home in their briefcases.
But ensuring that employees could work at all times while on the road was a concern until wireless technologies such as 3G made it extremely easy for employees to stay connected. Whether end users simply tether their BlackBerry to their laptop to gain access to the Web where Wi-Fi isn't available or they use a 3G wireless card from their carrier, they now have the ability to be connected to the Internet, e-mail and online software no matter where they are.
But the desktop's decline goes beyond mobility. Software as a service has become a powerhouse in the enterprise space. More developers than ever are putting their high-powered software on the Web to make it easier for companies to access the content they need. Instead of forcing a company to install software on a computer and being forced to maintain it, SAAS gives companies the option to simply access that software package online and use it with nothing more than a Web connection.
Until SAAS became a major player in the enterprise space, companies were tied to desktop software. And while many of those programs could be installed on a notebook, most applications simply worked better on a desktop, thanks to its greater power. It made it difficult to use notebooks. And it contributed heavily to the desktop's adoption in the enterprise.
But now that software is online, the Web connection speed matters far more than the power of the computer that's being used to access the online platform. So, if an employee is on the road and wants to input their activities for the day in Clarizen's time management software, they can literally sit on the side of the road and do it. It's convenient. And it's cost effective.
The Cloud
Working in the cloud is becoming an important part of the business world. Powerful software is moving to the cloud. Websites that help improve business operations are accessible with a Web connection. And a variety of software plus services, such as Microsoft's Online offerings, are helping enhance the computing experience.
As the industry moves more of its software and services to the cloud, it appeals even more to the mobility of notebooks. Instead of tying employees down to an office or a desk, the cloud is making it possible for employees to do anything from anywhere.

And considering both Microsoft and Google have tagged the cloud as the next frontier in the operating system market, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to expect cloud-based operating systems to make an impact on the enterprise at some point in the future too. Simply put, the cloud is changing the way companies do business. It's also changing buying patterns. And that's causing some trouble for desktops.
So, as we look to the future, we can see that the industry is moving decidedly more toward mobility and the Web. That trend follows the virtues of notebooks. And it's to the detriment of desktops.
It looks like those towers are finally losing their grip on the business world.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...