Much has been written on the long-term survival of the desktop PC. The proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing within the enterprise is changing the way we work, but does that mean the PC is destined for extinction?
There’s no denying, the PC market is suffering right now. According to a recent Gartner report, worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.4 million units in Q2 2015, a 9.5 percent dip from Q2, 2014. The report further predicts an overall decline of 4.4 percent in 2015.
But before writing off PCs completely, it’s important to note there were three distinct factors influencing these results:
- This year the price hike of PCs became more apparent in some regions due to a sharp appreciation of the U.S. dollar against local currencies, which impacted demand.
- The positive PC growth experienced last year due to Windows XP end of support.
- The anticipated launch of Windows 10 at the time of this report, with many organizations thought to be waiting to upgrade their hardware and software together.
While the PC industry may be going through a “rough patch,” the market is expected to come back to slow, yet steady, growth in 2016.
In the meantime, innovation within this space isn’t slowing down. In fact, organizations may be pleasantly surprised by what’s on offer the next time their hardware refresh cycle comes around.
In an effort to stay relevant, desktop PCs have undergone a significant transformation over the last few years. I recently sat down with Joseph Byer and Alexia Greco, our resident hardware experts here at Softchoice, to discuss the latest in desktop PCs, and where this technology is heading.
All-in-Ones: The new “Executive bling”
While Apple certainly led the charge with the iMac, most vendors now have an All-in-One device offering. Combining a desktop and display in one standalone unit, All-in-Ones are known for their sleek design and small desk footprint.
“The increasing popularity of open concept offices, and shared collaboration areas, has led to some organizations opting for smaller desk spaces,” explains Alexia. “All-in-Ones are an excellent way to make the most of this reduced space because everything resides in the monitor, which means less cords and clutter.”
Over the last couple of years, with the release of Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10, All-in-Ones have started to incorporate touch capabilities.
Joseph highlights that some newer models even lay down flat, providing an ideal collaboration tool for teams. “Collaboration is huge in today’s corporate environment, so the ability to lay the device flat, touch and move applications around, and even mount these devices onto the wall for a shared view, is a great asset.”
And with significant strides made in design, All-in-Ones are growing in popularity. “All-in-ones are getting sleeker and thinner,” explains Joseph. “They now look great on a desk, really cool. For that reason, a lot more executives are asking for them. It’s the new ‘executive bling.’”
However, while All-in-Ones certainly have a place in the market, they’re not right for everyone.
“A lot of people still don’t know enough about All-in-Ones to really feel comfortable,” explains Alexia. “There’s a fear that too much is built into the device, so if something breaks, it’s harder to fix. Of course, most service agreements cover this, and a lot of workstations allow for easy (and tool-less) self-service, but there’s still that perception of downtime.”
And while All-in-Ones are designed for desk-bound workers, there are those who simply don’t need all that performance.
“Some All-in-Ones come with a fixed resolution and/or screen size,” says Alexia. “This has pros and cons, depending on the user. Creative professionals, for example, will appreciate the awesome display, high-end processor, and professional graphics of an All-in-One, because it means they’re going to get awesome performance. However, others may not care and instead opt for something more cost effective, like a desktop and monitor purchased separately.”
Tiny desktops making a big impact
Tiny, micro or mini desktops serve a much wider user-base than All-in-Ones. Tiny desktops are miniature versions of the traditional desktop, which mount the back of the monitor, or stand beside it. Similar to All-in-Ones, they take up less desk space, while also offering the portability of an external hard drive.
“Tiny desktops are ideal for those who need the power and storage of a desktop, without the traditional footprint,” explains Alexia. “They have impressive processing power – up to 16GB of RAM, and 500GB of storage. That’s more storage capacity than some laptops.”
“Being so compact, it also means they’re extremely portable. Photographers, for example, can store their entire portfolio on a tiny desktop, which is only slightly bigger than a portable hard drive.”
In terms of where this technology fits in the PC market, Joseph explains that, “tiny desktops are really the bridge between a desktop and thin client” (outlined below). “They’re small and compact, but provide the processing power you need. They’re starting to be used in a lot more areas, like retail point-of-sale systems, for this reason.”
Thin Clients: The ultimate in PC security
While most, if not all, organizations are concerned about security, for some it is the driving force behind their hardware investments. Thin Clients are simple, skeleton-like devices which act as a display for programs running on the server. They are ideal for banks, hospitals, schools and retail businesses that have multiple users accessing the same computer, and want to provide restricted access to select programs.
“Everyone thought Thin Clients would be the next big thing 5 or 6 years ago, but they are still pretty niche,” says Joseph. “That said, they definitely serve a need in the market, and are extremely cost-effective, retailing at around $250.”
And while security is still the primary focus, Alexia says Thin Clients are now starting to focus on the end-user experience. “New software solutions, like HP Velocity, are focused on improving the user experience for remote desktop and virtualized applications by addressing common network bottlenecks, like packet loss, network latency and WiFi congestion. This translates into greater performance improvements for remote and branch offices, teleworkers, WiFi, and 3G/4G.”
Don’t write off the desktop PC just yet
Despite what many reports might indicate, the desktop PC is not dead. In fact, it’s alive and well, and still a necessary staple in many organizations.
“There’s still that power requirement that only a desktop PC can provide,” says Joseph.
“And there’s still a level of comfort with desktop PCs,” adds Alexia. “Unlike a tablet or laptop, they stay in the office which, in some peoples’ mind, reduces the risk of loss or damage. And because they’re anchored to a desk, they generally have a longer lifecycle – usually 5-6 years, compared to 3-4 years.”
To remain relevant for years to come, the desktop PC must continue to evolve.
“I think we’re likely to see a lot more connectivity between desktop PCs and other devices in the future,” says Joseph. “And, of course, sleeker designs and better performance.”
“I think we’re going to see more touch capabilities,” suggests Alexia. “Maybe even some new interactive components, like gesture, voice and visual recognition. That’s the direction mobile devices are heading, especially with Windows 10, and users want a seamless experience across devices.”
Whether desktop PCs are still alive and kicking in your organization, or you’re looking for alternative mobile solutions Softchoice is here to help.
Connect with us to discuss your next hardware refresh. As a top tier vendor partner with all major manufacturers, we get access to the best pricing. We also have more than 150 pre-sales resources available, to help find you the right technology for the job.
Contact your Softchoice Account Manager for more information.