Combining style and substance – the future of the business PC

One of the biggest challenges that business PC designers have to deal with is balancing looks and aesthetics with a solid and long lasting build quality.

They are dealing with perhaps the most demanding customers in tech – businesses that want their devices to do everything; from withstanding filthy hands and adverse weather to surviving 10 metre falls and rarely needing charging.

At HP, we were recently reminded of this with our current Android education tablets. Originally designed to work with a stylus attached by a cord, they were given to a school for testing and almost immediately, an eight year old began swinging the tablet by that same stylus!

Needless to say, it was straight back to the drawing board for us and we now have a device designed to withstand 7LB of rotating force. We realised that a rugged tablet requires quite an extraordinary level of resilience to survive life within a primary school, and therefore needs creative and intelligent design (as well as more thought given to how the mind of an eight year old works…)

Although humorous in hindsight, this example illustrates the thought process needed when IT manufacturers like us have to deal with specific customer groups, which include not just schools, but government, businesses, the military and more. Each sector has its own unique requirements, but what they have in common is a need for rigorous research to achieve outstanding design standards.

This can also be seen in the business world. The last few years have seen the workplace undergo dramatic changes, with workers becoming increasingly mobile and business security becoming more important with cybercrime growing and BYOD (bring your own device) becoming more commonplace.

As a result, business technology must be ready to face the daily demands of the modern work environment, which nowadays means high amounts of storage and memory, a large battery, business software and security features. In the past, this often meant bulkier products, with office laptops and PCs often being much larger and tougher than technology designed for consumer markets.

The necessary business features often added substantial weight and turned what would be a sleek device into something heavy and outdated. But for the modern day business person, these larger devices simply won’t cut it. Employees now expect to be able to take their laptops to meetings, work on the train home and travel for business without acquiring a shoulder injury. Therefore, there is added pressure for manufacturers serving this sector.

The new way forward

As the line between business and consumer blurs, people want the best of both worlds – the durability, manageability, power and security of the business PC, with the style and beauty usually reserved for consumer devices. Producing first class business products includes a rigorous process of design and quality testing, ranging from drop tests to high-force compression, ensuring that components can withstand any possible situation.

Everything from keyboards and touchpads to the location of the ports and display go through multiple stages of research, testing and refinement. And with all this, designers still have to offer the latest, fastest, most power-efficient hardware, all-day battery life, advanced security and high-resolution screen. In some ways, designing products for businesses has become an even more complex design challenge, as it involves creating something that looks to inspire employees, but still fits all the requirements of an IT department.

It is undoubtedly a tricky and highly competitive market for business devices, and brands can’t afford to drop the ball on design innovation. At HP, we try to stay ahead by looking to other industries and technologies, taking inspiration on design from everything from Furniture Fair in Milan to the London Auto Show.

At a time when customers want beauty and depth, we aim to produce technology that is not only as resilient as a warrior and unpassable as a body guard, but also comes with a surprisingly attractive face.

By Neil Anderson, UK & I PPS Pre Sales Manager and Enterprise Sales, Hewlett Packard.