Technology in the workplace has changed. No longer do large computers towers dominate workstations. Instead, enterprises have adopted more innovative and mobile technology that caters to the needs of employees.
The shift, in part, stems from workplace transformation, which is driving companies to offer new, more modern devices and capabilities to both attract and retain talent and save money.
As companies are becoming more mobile and agile, they're still looking toward PCs as the dominant device for users. That's even with declining worldwide PC shipments and increasingly powerful tablets and smartphones on the market.
"We think PCs are the critical and most strategic business tool that's out there," said Tom Garrison, vice president and general manager of the business client platforms team at Intel, in an interview with CIO Dive. "We do not see anything to suggest that the PC is going to be replaced in any way, shape or form."
The state of enterprise PCs
The argument for the decline, and eventual end, of PCs stemmed from the supposedly inevitable transfer of work over to tablets and phones.
When tablets hit the market, many strategists were pointing to them as the future of the workplace, revolutionizing how employees traditionally worked.
"The tablet market started off with a lot of expectation that it was going to be a bigger category," Garrison said. "Some people wrote it as it was going to kill the PC."
Instead, tablets are used as a highly mobile consumption device, useful for consuming content but not for creating it. Tablets show promise in some environments, such as retail where users can showcase new products to customers, but they have not taken over the enterprise as many expected.
In 2017, desktops and laptops are projected to account for 18% and 16%, respectively, of IT hardware budgets, according to Spiceworks' 2016 report on IT budgets and tech trends. Tablet and mobile technology are expected to account for just 6% of hardware budgets.
"Broadly speaking, we haven't really seen tablets take off really at all, nor do we expect to," Garrison said. Rather than a primary computing platform, tablets are most often used as a companion device to a PC. That is why for some users, two-in-one devices are the best of both worlds.
But with increased mobility available to customers, the idea of a traditional desktop tower PC has gone to the wayside. "The PC is the sort of ultimate Darwinian device," Garrison said. "It's evolved and adapted to now where if you look at a PC today, it's a completely different and transformed experience."
Ten years ago when Intel's vPro platform was first launched, people were buying it for a desktop PC, according to Garrison. "It was pretty much everybody — if they had a work PC, it was a desktop PC."
But now, there is a mix of desktop and laptop environments across the world, Garrison said. In some cases, people even have both, but most often users choose one or the other.
With changes in the availability and increased mobility of devices, some enterprises began leaning toward "bring your own device" policies.
But today, more organizations select "choose your own device" policies, which allow for enterprise oversight without forcing employees into a device that doesn't suit their needs. Almost three-quarters of the 700 IT decision-makers in a recent IDC survey said they worked for organizations that were offering, or planning to offer, CYOD programs for employees.
At Intel, "we believe that the time of a single device being defined as the 'right platform for the job' — those days are gone," Garrison said. "Now our strategy is around enabling a whole portfolio of different product types and categories so that the IT shop can use the same architecture across a whole gamut of devices."
"Then they can offer choice to the employees to choose the right device for the job," he said. There is also the added benefit that devices used in the enterprise are more secure and manageable.
Though there are still companies that have BYOD programs, they're more prevalent with phones. With the vastly different capabilities, in terms of communication and management, BYOD policies make it so users are often on their own if something isn't working. "That's really not a scalable solution in the enterprise," Garrison said.
The idea of device choice in the enterprise has given rise to a computer architecture that works across platforms, Garrison said. For example, the current sixth generation of Intel's core vPro platforms works on desktop tower devices, small form desktops, in clamshell laptop PCs, tablets and two-in-one devices.
"We want to make sure that you have choice, but yet still based and rooted in the same architecture," Garrison said.