A question that is raised when making the decision about buying a new computer is – What kind do I need? Traditionally, due to cost, the only feasible option was a desktop computer; however, today laptops are often less expensive and nearly as powerful as a desktop computer. We have also seen a period when users would only consider a laptop as a work computer, this is also changing. In addition to the two traditional forms of computer we now have more portable devices entering the business market, the smart phone and tablet or slate computer.
The decision on what to buy is in fact a very easy one when looked at objectively. A smart phone is a very useful device, but is in fact an extension of the office that allows access to e-mail and calendar information wherever there is a mobile signal. Would you really consider a smart phone to be an effective replacement to a laptop or desktop computer? Probably not, however, the tablet or slate computer is a more interesting proposition.
These devices have screens that are larger than a smart phone but they have no physical keyboard so they are smaller and lighter than the smallest of laptops. The case for a tablet as a work computer is extended by devices such as the Apple iPad that can be purchased with a mobile data contract which gives it the business tools from a smart phone* but with a larger screen.
This device can also run applications such as presentation software; word processor, a spreadsheet programme and now a database utility, these developments all combine to give the tablet computer a foothold in the business market. Tablet PCs can also be connected to external hardware keyboards and mice to give an experience closer to using a laptop but won’t connect directly to a printer.
In my opinion these kinds of devices are not viable alternatives to the two traditional forms of computer in a work environment, they add to it, but they do not replace it. Objectively the decision between a laptop and a desktop is simple. If you work at the same desk every day then a desktop will not only offer a more powerful computer with a larger screen, they also offer the ability to create a comfortable working environment, the keyboard, mouse and screen can be located where you want, whereas a laptop is one complete unit. The decision in favour of using a laptop as a work computer is also as easy, if you work in multiple locations then carrying a desktop computer is not feasible. Most laptops have features such as wireless networking built in as standard that allow the user to take advantage of locations with wireless internet provision to work whilst on the move.
The difficulty is when the user starts to think subjectively and is driven by what they want rather than what they need. In 2007/08 laptops outsold desktops for a period as they were considered the latest trend much like the advent of the mobile phone in the late 80’s. The market today has changed and computers are usually purchased for a purpose that makes the decision an objective one.
Whether the iPad and its competitors become a real contender in the choice between Desktop v Laptop only time will tell.
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*Apart from the ability to make phone calls, although Skype are currently working on an app.