Almost exactly three years ago, the overall personal computer sales market got a shot in the arm when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused everyone everywhere to suddenly a) be trapped inside indefinitely, and b) need a desktop or laptop PC to connect kids to school and adults to ... everything: work, shopping, news and information, streaming entertainment services, etc.
Fast forward to October of last year, when all-purpose industry research firm Gartner delivered a grim coda to the COVID-spurred PC mini-boom. Personal computer sales declined year-over-year for the fourth straight quarter, and the 2022 third-quarter (July-August-September) sales slump was a kick-in-the-teeth, largest-in-decades 20 percent falloff from Q3 of 2021.
Desktop and laptop computers inarguably remain an essential element of home and workplace computing — which are no longer distinct spheres, for many IT industry workers. On the other hand, tech industry observers have been looking past personal computers for decades, attempting to see what both consumers and workers will turn to next.
Smartphones and tablets are the obvious candidate to step in and replace their digital forebears. Both have gradually gotten both more powerful and more cross-functional with traditional desktop and laptop computers. In some people’s minds the question is when — not whether — phones and tablets push laptops to the fringe, and maybe push desktops out of the workplace technology picture entirely.
It’s hard to get a sense of what stage of that hypothetical transition we might be in without being able to peek into a broad cross-section of IT workplaces. Thanks to the Salary Survey, however, we have an opportunity each year to do just that. So we asked certified IT professionals to what extent, broadly speaking, they are still tied to a more or less conventional desktop and/or laptop computing setup.
Here’s what we learned:
Q: How many hours per day do you use a desktop or laptop computer to do your current job?
I never use a desktop or laptop computer. — 1.2 percent
An hour or so per day — 3.8 percent
A couple of hours per day — 9.1 percent
3 to 4 hours per day — 11.4 percent
5 to 6 hours per day — 14.9 percent
7 to 8 hours per day — 25 percent
More than 8 hours per day — 17.7 percent
Everything I do requires a desktop or laptop computer. — 17 percent
First off, there is a sliver of survey respondents who don’t use a desktop or laptop computer for anything. If that is the future of workplace computing, however, it would seems there’s no need for computer makers to panic. And even when we raise the usage meter all the way to “only” 3 or 4 hours per day, we’ve captured a hair more than 25 percent of the total survey population.
Nearly 40 of all survey respondents use a laptop or desktop computer to get IT done for either 5 or 6 hours per day or 7 or 8 hours per day. Out of the remaining roughly one-third of all survey respondents, 17.1 percent use a desktop or laptop computer more than 8 hours per day, and 17 percent use a desktop or laptop computer for every work-related thing they do.
Tablets and smartphones clearly have a role in the IT workplace ecosystem. We’ll have more data about that later this month. But the desktops and laptops aren’t on the way out. Or maybe desktop computers are becoming scarcer by the day and laptops are doing the real heavy lifting. Maybe we can attempt to differentiate between them the next time that the Salary Survey comes around.