There have been a number of reports recently about the death of the desktop PC, which sits in a fixed office and is deserted every day by the average user at around 5:30pm.
Some reports say that laptop PC sales now exceed those of desktops, and a result of this change may be to help usher in a whole new set of tools to manage IT.
Unsurprisingly, the mobility offered through the use of laptops and smaller mobile computing devices is one of the reasons for the pressure on desktop PC sales. But it is not just mobility that makes laptops attractive. Many low-end models are now as cheap or cheaper than desktops, so it makes sense to buy them anyway even if users are expected to leave them on their desk at the close of business.
Quocirca research has also shown that certain laptop models are now so cheap that they are even being used to support thin client computing, where the user's applications and data are stored and managed centrally in a datacentre and accessed using a 'dumb' display device, making them suitable for task-oriented jobs such as those of most call centre agents.
That some of these workers are now using laptop PCs without actually making much use of the machine's processing power or storage capability is a sign of how cheap computing hardware has become.
It is easy to consider these two groups of users - those with their devices in the field and those stuck at their desks - as being opposites in the way they work, and that this affects their support requirements. In fact, much usage actually lies along a spectrum between these two end points, and support services need to reflect this.
When a remote user accesses the network, certain applications and data may be accessible to them only from a centralised source, and storing data on their device may not be permitted for reasons of integrity and security.
Many remote users are doing task-oriented jobs anyway: field service engineers, parking attendants, clinical staff visiting patients and so on. The sooner the data they gather is centralised the quicker it can be used by other staff. In reality their devices are often akin to thin clients, but accessing centralised resources over wide area connections.
Furthermore, a user who is normally desk-bound can still benefit from having some applications installed on their local PC. It might make sense to allow the ones they use regularly to be cached and run locally for performance reasons, so using laptops as thin clients may not be as wasteful as it first sounds. It also means that, when necessary, they can be mobile too, for example on some occasions needing to work from home.
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