In the heart of Silicon Valley, uttering the word "desktop" might earn you a few raised eyebrows and technology-dinosaur status.
This notion has quickly spread across the world because PC shipments have been declining since hitting their peak of 363 million units in 2011. IDC predicted in May that the PC market will decline approximately 7.8 percent this year and more than 1.2 percent in 2014 to 322 million units.
However, don't be too quick to write off the old, trusty desktop quite yet. IDC also predicted that the PC market will pick back up, with shipments rising to 333 million by 2017. Shipments will rise in part because businesses and consumers will refresh their aging computers, and for many, new desktops will make more sense than new laptops. The reason? Desktops pair better with iPads and other tablets.
[ Is the Surface Pro the ultimate productivity tablet? Read Microsoft Surface Pro Vs. Competitors. ]
Tablets are on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you carry an iPad, you are immediately seen as tech-savvy. More than 170 million iPads have been sold -- not including the latest iPad Air -- and it is no longer unusual to see them everywhere from the beach to the boardroom. Their portability has placed them center stage in the world of business computing, whether BYOD or corporate-owned.
In similar fashion, the majority of companies have opted over the last decade to use laptops instead of desktops, -- and for many of the same reasons. But this is changing; if given the option, many employees prefer to tackle meetings, conferences, and other work with an iPad instead of a laptop. The tablet is sleeker and lighter, and it has a longer battery life.
Where does the desktop come in? Rapid tablet adoption doesn't mean people want to cut the cord entirely from working on a PC. A recent Forrester study found that 80 percent of knowledge workers prefer to use a smartphone, tablet, and traditional computer in combination -- which is a strong indication that, even though people want access to tablets, they still prefer to use their desktop and desktop apps for certain types of work.
If a PC refresh cycle is looming, businesses should reevaluate their computing and device strategy. For many, a tablet is now a must, but a computer is still essential to many jobs, as well. With tablets eating into the laptop's primary benefits over desktops, this time around companies should consider buying desktops over laptops. At first, it sounds shockingly like taking one step forward and two steps backward, but working together, the iPad and desktop can actually create a powerful combination.
Desktops offer many advantages over laptops:
- Greater productivity: Desktops tend to be more powerful than laptops, with faster processors, better graphics handling, more memory, bigger storage, more built-in peripherals, and more flexible upgradability.
- Improved TCO: Desktops are cheaper than laptops, and they last longer. Laptop manufacturing requires the miniaturization of components that generate heat, and the portability of the device itself drives wear. Companies can extend their replacement cycle by opting for desktops.
- Superior reliability: Desktops achieve a much longer mean time before failure than laptops, because desktops aren't typically carried everywhere. This means less downtime and reduced IT operating cost.
- Fewer security risks: A laptop and the data it houses are a huge risk; security experts say a laptop is stolen every 50 seconds. The data is just as important on desktops, but they are not being lugged to a coffee shop or airport as a potential theft target.
For many users, in other words, a tablet and desktop combo provides more productivity than a tablet and laptop. In the first combination, the devices complement one another, with the tablet handling content consumption and mobility and the desktop handling heavy productivity tasks. In the second combination, the laptop provides less productivity than the desktop and is less appropriate than the tablet for many mobile tasks.
Nevertheless, even with a tablet and desktop, there are bridges to be gapped. Apple's iPad clearly is a top choice for tablet users, but most business professionals still need to use Windows apps that aren't available on the device. Often, these professionals run these apps on desktops, but what happens when an employee needs Windows software while away from his or her desk?
This is where the new generation of remote access technology comes into play, granting a tablet user instant access to a desktop and all its software and programs, even CPU-heavy apps. Furthermore, with a tablet serving as a mobile thin client, corporate data is neither stored on the device itself nor at risk of interception over WiFi -- a huge bonus for IT as well as for companies that have high-risk security and compliance policies.
Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) architecture is also a worthy choice because it brings fast access without the complexity and high cost of traditional implementation. With distributed remote access of desktop computers, a mobile workforce can enjoy instant and secure access to all apps and data from anywhere and on any device -- a flexibility that effectively supports both telecommuting and branch offices.
IT also enjoys full manageability and control over tethered desktops inside the corporate firewall for security patches, updates, and backups. This creates a faster and more effective disaster recovery system. Furthermore, compared to WiFi-centric laptops, desktops connected to Ethernet deliver better connectivity and security, as well as wake-on-LAN capabilities for the on-demand awakening of computers.
If companies embrace this approach, iPad lovers and IT can settle their differences. And if other employees choose Android, Windows 8 RT, or some other tablet platform, IT can just as readily support it, too.
Each device has unique characteristics naturally suited to certain uses. The iPad is a consumption-centric device with strengths in portability, battery life, and instant connectivity. The desktop's strength, in contrast, lies in remaining the ultimate productivity and content creation device, thanks to its large screen, keyboard, mouse, sizable storage, and Windows compatibility. Remote access technology seamlessly bridges devices and corporate datacenters to create a secure, cost-effective, and highly productive infrastructure for the future of the mobile workforce.
So as the next PC refresh cycle approaches, remember that tablets such as the iPad are great, but out of the box, they are not rip-and-replace for traditional computers. Sometimes you need a desktop, and sometimes you need VDI.
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