With a 2 percent market share in 1986, no one anticipated that there would one day be more laptop computers in use than desktops. But for the first time, in 2008 laptop sales exceeded those of desktops.
Increased market share applies to home users and businesses. Laptops are an advantage for business due to their small size and price, whereas desktops take up a lot of space and require desk designation. Offices that employ transient workers (sales, real estate or partial work from home) can benefit by sharing desks between workers. With a laptop assigned to each, they can take their work with them to any location and make more efficient use of office resources.
However, portability of laptops can also make them a security risk.
Workers are sometimes careless with laptops, which results in damage, loss or theft. We've all heard horror stories of personal information being taken off stolen laptops resulting in identity theft.
Companies can mitigate these issues by utilizing a secure database on the Internet. Workers can access the data when needed, but it doesn't reside on their machines in the case of loss or theft.
Another consideration is the expense IT staff incurs rounding up the machines to check their security and apply upgrades. You must also have a disposal policy in force that guarantees the old laptops are properly recycled and all data is wiped from the drives.
What laptop is right for your needs?
Laptops offer extensive choices in size, weight, processing power and price. As components continue to shrink and power expands, the days of the desktop may be numbered.
With screen sizes in excess of 15 inches, multimedia and gaming laptops are the high-end market. These can be very expensive, heavy and bulky. But with extensive features rivaling the best desktops, these can be a perfect fit for computer enthusiasts.
These media center laptops can easily exceed $2,000, but that includes such features as recording live TV, editing video and extensive audio features.
Standard or mid-size laptops come in a wide variety of configurations. With typical screen sizes between 13 and 15 inches, they are practical and used extensively. Price ranges from $600 to $1,500 and they hold the middle ground in terms of weight, battery life and processing power.
Ultra-portable and subnotebooks are small machines with screens smaller than 13 inches. They were the first to offer a screen as small as 6.5 inches. With high-end components and expensive cases, these are pricey little laptops. Recently this class got some stiff competition from a new class of netbooks.
Netbooks were first released as lightweight, economical solutions for users that wanted a bit more than a mobile phone could offer. Typically used for wireless communication and Internet access, these machines don't have hard drives and use solid state memory.
They are very small, weigh less than three pounds and cost as little as $250. The processing power is limited and although Windows XP is a struggle, Linux open source operating systems run very well.
In 2008, more than 14 million netbooks were sold. Many people rushed out to buy these cute little laptops only to be disappointed with their limited capabilities.
In response, manufacturers such as Dell are releasing new netbooks with more traditional capabilities. They now include more memory, large hard drives and faster processing. These new minis are still very inexpensive and offer a good alternative to standard laptops.
Just a few years ago a mini laptop would have been ridiculed as impractical with its tiny keyboard and sub-10-inch screen. The explosive use of mobile phones has changed that.
Wayne Jacobsen is president of Wild Web Works Inc. He can be reached at 360-882-9005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.