Why your boss won’t ever allow PCs to be phased out

As the PC celebrates its 30th birthday a host of recent articles have suggested that it is a dated technology which will be ousted from the workplace in favour of tablet devices.

With the introduction of cloud computing, smart phones, tablets and ‘Bring Your Own Device’ to work initiatives, the landscape of office technology is changing quickly and the relevance of the traditional PC has been called into question.

If you couple this with HP’s recent public announcement to potentially reduce PC production then this loss of faith becomes all the more easy to identify with.

Tablet vs. PC

However, the question must be posed, does the tablet device really stand strong as the long term successor of the PC or is all this discussion a little premature?

Of course, there is plenty of scope for these devices to contribute to the working environment alongside the PC and there are even many areas where they naturally supersede the PC’s capabilities, for example they are particularly effective at aiding and encouraging collaboration through remote working and opening up communication channels on the move.

But it is clear to see that they also have their flaws. The challenge that the tablet device faces, is in the way that we currently receive and edit information and until we are able to adapt that, their use will be limited in supporting and achieving business service levels.

The value of productivity

For example, the simple task of typing is a challenge. Long writing tasks are not something that you would ever attempt on a tablet as there is no easy and comfortable way of editing documents and the whole process would be incredibly time consuming.

Likewise whilst these devices are great for receiving and reviewing documents and emails, it can be a challenge to secure them. When these devices are introduced into a corporate environment, it means that companies have to buy third-party products to make it safe to use them. This makes official business adoption a costly exercise and inevitably puts a price on employee productivity.

With this in mind you can’t help but wonder how these devices ended up in the office environment in the first place. Some of the companies that brought in tablet devices en masse did so without understanding the consequences – there was quite a lot of emotional purchasing when they first became popular.

A corporate asset

People started using tablets socially and began seeing the benefits and thought “why shouldn’t we use these devices at work”? And of course, subsequently tablets have ended up in the workplace. However, they bring a whole host of problems with them for corporate IT departments in that it is not clear how the company can easily make the devices comply with corporate security policy as well as making them usable.

Similarly, it is difficult to make tablets deliver the corporate benefits that an organisation should expect and yet still, get a return on investment from them as corporate asset – unless their use is primarily passive, as a device to simply receive and review information.

The key here is to source a pool of relevant and pre-approved devices, this enables the workforce to benefit from a degree of device choice and yet the organisation can still benefit from an element of control and understanding of how to secure and maintain those devices cost effectively.

Whilst consumer devices can open up new ways of working away from the office, it is crucial that businesses understand their limitations and the potential pitfalls which they bring. The PC, although significantly less popular, reliably provides the workplace with the tools it need to get the job done and enables the workforce to work productively.

Ultimately, that is why we are not quite ready to surrender the PC just yet and until tablets advance there will always be a firm place for the PC in today’s office.

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Colin Williams is the Current Practice Leader at Computacenter. Having previously held a managing consultancy role at Morse Group and being educated at The University of Hull, he now looks after the network and security side of the Computacenter business.