Will we ever be ‘laptop free’?

In a world that is fast producing new technologies every year, it’s interesting to read what technologies are reported to being on the decline. For example last month, a study from comScore has shown that desktop browsing is fast becoming a thing of the past.

In the article, from April 2016, it was stated that over the past four months, desktop use for Internet browsing has been consistently below the recorded amounts for the same time period last year. Alongside these figures, it is also stated that desktops are losing share to mobile, which now accounts for 65 per cent of digital media time spent. As a result, mobile devices seem to be replacing the traditional PC - in the age of being connected anywhere and at any time, this is hardly surprising, but what lies ahead for the other devices we hold dear?

Increasingly over the past ten years, we have seen the introduction of powerful handheld devices. One of these devices is most notably the smartphone, which initially took the technology market by storm, but soon after that the tablet market was born and technology firms vied for consumer sales in this new sector. Using these handheld devices, from smartphone to tablet, has become commonplace in western society – so much so, that we find those that don’t own a handheld device in the minority.

With the demise of the desktop and the rise in the public using wearables and handheld devices to complete everyday tasks, will we ever see the day when laptops are no longer used? 

 Where does the future lie for laptop devices? 

In August 2015, a report was published from UK regulator Ofcom, stating that smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for accessing the internet in the United Kingdom. In addition to this, 33 per cent of Britons now see their smartphone as their most important internet device, using it for an average of two hours a day to browse websites.

However, despite the promise of tablets to revolutionise mobile working, Panasonic’s latest research, ‘Rise of the Machines’ conducted in October 2015, shows that the laptop still remains, at this time, the preferred choice for the UK mobile workforce. When asked about the most productive device when working away from the office, 48 per cent of workers and technology buyers across Europe said the laptop was top.

Our working life versus our personal life is where the difference in usage currently comes into play. While laptops and PCs dominate working in the office environment, it’s out of work where we see tablets and smartphones taking control. According to a study conducted by Smart Insights, PCs and laptops are used more when completing work tasks between 10.00am and 5.00pm, however outside of these times, smartphones are used heavily on the commute, and tablets are used most frequently in the evening, between the times of 8.00pm and 12.00am. 

This research suggests that we have our favourite devices for certain times of day, and laptops are evidently an essential part of working life. Despite this, the tablet has no doubt taken a significant market share and there are job roles where its form factor is ideal. If a worker is out of office all day, there’s no doubt that the portability and battery life of a tablet pips a laptop to the post, and having access to ruggedised devices can mean that even those in more extreme roles can access the vital information needed to work effectively.

So the laptop still remains the ‘king of the hill’ for most consumers – with 49 per cent of those surveyed by us suggesting that the laptop is still the most productive device for mobile working. However, with form and ease of use challenging the device, what solutions are currently being developed to compete with the standard laptop format? 

 Hybrid is the new black 

Hybrid laptop and tablet devices are fast entering the market from all competitors, and are offering workers from all sectors the ability to efficiently work on a task, having the versatility that is increasingly becoming the norm in modern businesses.

The hybrid solution offers the best of both worlds, being able to swap between laptop and tablet mode quickly depending on the type of work that needs to be done, completing the work originally started in the office or on the road. Looking to the future, according to our research, the dominance of the laptop in Europe looks set to end with 36 per cent of those sampled thinking the hybrid will be the dominant business computing tool within the next three years, with the laptop at 26 per cent, the tablet at 14 per cent, desktop PC at 11 per cent and smartphone at 7 per cent.

However, the main drivers for would-be adopters of hybrid devices in the UK included more functionality, alongside better availability of software and better performance. With hybrid devices hitting the market relatively recently, there is much room for enhancing these devices, to make them truly fluid and efficient when it comes to using the products throughout our daily lives. 

A promising future

Only time can tell whether the laptop will disappear from offices and mobile workers’ hands alike – however for the time being, the laptop is here to stay. Nevertheless, given that hybrid devices are the infant of the technology market currently, there’s a promising future for the device, with upgrades and new products entering the sector constantly.

The hybrid device is a brave challenger to the laptop market, and could turn the views we presently have of mobile devices on its head.

Jan Kaempfer, General Manager for Marketing for Panasonic Computer Product Solutions 

Image source: Shutterstock/Eugenio Marongiu