Is the business PC dead?

Last week I was sat in a meeting and noticed the plethora of devices which each individual summarily throw on the desk as the meeting started. iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, legacy handsets, tablets and laptops.

The pre-meeting conversation developed around who has the latest device, apps and operating systems, what they allow you to do and how they have made the users life easier. It then occurred to me that all of the new technology on show was purchased by the user, not the business they worked for, although they used the devices for work.

The stack of older, battered, legacy devices, that weren’t part of the discussion, were all supplied by their respective businesses for use by their employees.

The personal technology refresh cycle is much more rapid than that of business devices. Meaning many business users carry multiple devices the latest in smart phones that they use for personal calls and emails, and a clunky old last generation device for work.

The consumerisation of technology means that in our personal lives we all have access to rich, convenient and dynamic technologies. This experience is consistent for most users that I speak to until the minute they step over the work threshold. It becomes vastly different, unintuitive applications, old devices and technology that is not user focussed.

This week Channel Four has allowed staff to bring in their own personal iPad for use at work. I believe this trend will gather speed over the coming years. As we see the rising prevalence of cloud based services and in particular hosted desktop services, the device becomes increasingly irrelevant. The richest and most basic of devices can deliver a consistent experience to end users using cloud services.

I think we will see a trend were employees are paid a technology stipend, monthly or annually, for using their own laptop, mobile device or other hardware. Offices will start to look increasingly scares of hardware, docking stations on desks, but no desks assigned to individuals.

Those businesses that have deployed bring your own PC projects looked to primarily reduce the cost of technology and communications. However, they have seen facilities costs reduced and enabled employees to benefit from more flexible working.

With cloud services delivered to any device anywhere, anytime; employees can work where they want, when they want.

As previously mentioned many users, like me, provide their own personal smart phone that they use as a work device. With my personal Apple iPhone, I get full vendor hardware support and a device that is fit for purpose and fulfils all my work requirements, something that the work provided alternative would not.

The simplicity of this model can be emulated with personal computers. By embracing cloud services employee supplied devices becomes eminently possible.

Any step change in the way we consume and use technology will always see resistance; it may not be applicable in highly regulated industries that require full control and security over employee devices.

But, I do believe that we are currently seeing the beginning of the end for businesses providing PCs to employees en-mass. I think this is something which will be heavily debated in board rooms and IT departments across the UK in the months and years to come.

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Stephen Eveleigh is Product Marketing Manager at Star. Stephen has over five years of product marketing experience working on MPLS, security, e-mail, collaboration and unified communications propositions. He is currently responsible for taking Star’s WorkLife proposition to market, working alongside product management and sales to help contextualise the business benefits of hosted unified communications.