Planning for Your Company’s Future Means Outfitting Employees with Modern PCs

Guest IDC Blogger: Tom Mainelli | Sponsored by Intel

The first half of 2020 proved an exceptionally challenging time for both companies and individuals. As we look to the future, and everyone continues to adjust to the “new normal,” one thing has become abundantly clear: The PC continues to play a vitally important role for all types of businesses, big and small.

Notably, the first thing many companies did as they moved to adapt their workforce to a remote work environment was to buy new PCs. They bought so many so quickly, we saw a sold-out situation in many markets. This rush to buy exposed some long-simmering challenges inside the PC installed base of many organizations. These issues ranged from aging PCs and form factors, to outdated connectivity and missing collaboration tools, to serious questions about security. Such challenging economic times cause some organizations to clamp down on PC spending.

However, forward-thinking companies will view the current situation as an opportunity to address these existing challenges while positioning themselves for greater success down the road.

New Form Factors, Improved Performance and Manageability

The last few years have seen dramatic innovation in the PC industry. Today’s PCs offer sizeable improvements in performance over units that shipped just a few years ago. From faster processors to enhanced graphics chips to improved memory and lightning-quick solid-state drives, it all works together to drive noticeably better experiences. And beyond better speeds and feeds, today’s PCs increasingly leverage new technologies such as artificial intelligence to help employees work smarter, not harder.

Another area of improvement has been battery life. A critical challenge many employees experience is declining battery life on their aging notebook computer. This situation is exacerbated by work situations that shifted from an employee using their notebook in a largely stationary fashion in the office (on the desk and plugged in), to more mobile use cases when working from home. Today’s PCs leverage improved batteries that not only last longer, but also charge faster.

Today’s PCs don’t just offer better performance and battery life; they look better and provide additional functionality via updated form factors. For many, moving to an ultra-slim notebook is all they need to drive increased productivity. For others, new form factors such as convertible notebooks and detachable tablets can drive notable efficiency improvements. And looking ahead, you can expect to see interesting new form factors such as dual-screen and foldable-screen PCs entering the market form industry leaders.

As your company plans for what its work, workspace, workforce, and work culture will look like in the future, you should think long and hard about acquiring the right PC form factors and being willing to rethink what worked in the past and what will work in the future. It's also important to consider the rapidly changing IT landscape and the importance of procuring PCs that are built for business. This includes considering new PC-focused tools that help address the challenges of managing a remote PC fleet. In the end, one of the key strengths of the PC platform is its power, flexibility, and IT manageability.

Next-Gen Connectivity and Collaboration Tools

Older PCs often lack the features and capabilities that help drive higher individual productivity as well as collaborative efforts. One of the key innovations appearing on the latest generation of PCs is WiFi 6. This next-generation wireless standard offers nearly three times the download speed of the previous generation. And it’s not just about speed; WiFi 6 also offers lower latency, which drives a much more responsive online experience, whether you are navigating Web pages, accessing SaaS applications, or messaging with your coworkers. The new standard also builds in additional security features that enable improved authentication and encryption. Looking ahead, you will also begin to see more notebooks that support 5G, the next generation of mobile networks. Notebooks with 5G will offer notable improvements in speed and lower latency than today’s LTE networks, which will help your most mobile employees be more productive wherever they happen to be working.

Another use for this improved connectivity: Enhanced online collaboration. In many ways, the challenges of 2020 have helped to accelerate many organization’s initiatives around collaboration. Still, unfortunately, many employees are trying to use next-generation collaboration and video-conferencing tools with last-generation Webcams and microphones. Today’s latest PCs offer much-improved cameras with high-resolution lenses and other features to make you look your best. And while older PCs might have one poorly placed microphone, many of today’s newest products utilize multiple microphone arrays designed to capture your voice better, while other hardware and software actively cancel out the noises coming from around you. Finally, with the latest CPUs and GPUs today’s PCs can drive better video, adjusting on the fly to changing bandwidth situations while powering the next-generation of collaboration experiences including virtual backgrounds.

Security at the Core

Another key upside to new PCs: improved security. Security remains a key concern for every organization. As companies navigate new workspace limitations, and an increasing percentage of employees move to permanent work from home status, security has taken on an even higher level of importance. We mentioned that next-gen connectivity, such as WiFi 6 and LTE, could help drive a more secure device. Still, beyond that, perhaps the most significant improvement comes with the additional intelligence and management capabilities that today’s CPUs bring to the table. Today’s companies are moving away from passwords toward endpoints that are secured using biometric capabilities such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition.

Moreover, today’s high-powered processors can utilize artificial intelligence to drive smoother, more natural security interactions that maintain productivity while also securing the company’s data. Today’s PCs also leverage increasingly sophisticated firmware and chip-level security to maintain device security, as well as advanced threat detection that offloads the work to a PC's GPU to ensure the CPU continues to drive the best performance. These same capabilities make modern PCs easier to manage, a key distinction as IT works to support a workforce that is now spread out across geographies.

Planning Ahead for Future Opportunities

These are difficult times, but they also represent an opportunity for your organization to address long-term challenges that have resurfaced due to recent work-from-home directives. Think hard about where your IT spending can lead to significant improvements for your employees. Consider the benefits of next-gen PC form factors such as convertibles and detachables, as well as new connectivity standards such as WiFi6 and 5G. Explore the availability of new features and capabilities that can drive productivity and collaboration. Finally, consider all the security benefits that a shift to modern PCs can bring. Tough times don’t last, and companies that take this time to outfit their employees for the future better will find more success in the future.

To learn more, read the IDC whitepaper and analyst Q&A sponsored by Intel.

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Tom Mainelli

About Tom Mainelli

Tom Mainelli manages IDC's Devices group, which covers a broad range of hardware categories including PCs, tablets, smartphones, wearables, AR/VR, thin clients, and displays. In his role as program vice president, he works closely with company representatives, industry contacts, and other IDC analysts to provide in-depth insight and analysis on the always-evolving market of endpoint devices and their related services. In addition to overseeing the collection of historical shipment data and the forecasting of shipment trends in cooperation with IDC's Tracker organization, he also heads up numerous primary research initiatives at IDC including frequent consumer- and commercial-focused surveys. A frequent public speaker, he travels often and enjoys the opportunity to work with colleagues and clients all over the world.