Business PCs' New Era: 6 Trends

Six factors are shaping the new multi-screen world of office computing.

corporate offices and Google's Chrome and Android-based models appear from Windows hardware partners like Dell and HP. Techaisle sees an opportunity for Chromebooks and Android-based PCs somewhere in the middle of the content consumption-interaction-creation spectrum, although Agrawal throws his hands up when asked to predict their impact on business purchasing decisions.

"There are analyst firms that have predicted the Chromebook market to reach anywhere from 6 million to 11 million [units sold annually] by 2016. That is a wide range," he said. Even at the high end, 11 million units would only represent around 4% of global PC shipments, Agrawal added, and there are a lot of factors that will push the needle between passing fad and business-ready device. Among them: What if Microsoft launched a "Bing-book"? What if Chromebooks become IT favorites as thin clients in virtualized environments? What if Android-based PCs win over the budget-conscious set? And how will Chromebooks evolve from the "cheap-and-simple" proposition they launched with?

5. More choices, tougher decisions
There's more choice than ever in the PC market, from "traditional" desktops and laptops, to two-in-ones or hybrids, to dumping the laptop altogether for an iPad or other tablet. That's a plus for buyers willing to do their homework. It might be less so for the vendors because buyers' purchasing decisions take longer, especially if the buyer has no brand loyalty.

"[The] massive increase in choices for IT [and] business buyers is a good thing, something for everyone, but also creates a longer purchase cycle unless a buyer is already committed to a PC OEM," Agrawal said. "If a buyer is committed to a PC OEM then the decision is made based on price, configuration, account management, and associated services."

6. More screens, more IT challenges
A recent Spiceworks survey found more than two-thirds of IT pros support at least two devices per employee in their organizations, and nearly as many expect that device-per-person ratio to grow in the next five years, thanks in part to wearables and the Internet of Things.

There's a price to pay for the multi-screen norm most workers already take for granted -- and we're not talking about the cost of the devices themselves, nor the software or data plans that make them work. Rather, someone has to fix them when they break, not to mention answer the always-fun question: "So, can I get [X application] on [X device]?"

We know -- BYOD and all of that. But let's see a show of hands in the comments from IT pros who have fielded calls from co-workers about their personally owned iPads or Android phones. What happens when wearable tech or IoT goes mainstream?

Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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