Tiny PCs still a closed book to enterprises

Netbooks, the tiny personal computers that do without expensive software such as Windows, are enjoying strong growth but can they ever be applicable to enterprise users? Well, some say yes and some say no. A recent study by Deloitte reckons that netbooks are likely to be the fastest growing segment of the PC market this year and will account for 15% of portable PC sales. However, for enterprise users, there’s both a perception and practical barrier to uptake. “I think acceptance in the enterprise is very small,” IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell told The Industry Standard recently. “In fact we don’t even track that. We do believe about 7% of netbooks are going in to small business but I don’t know of any companies standardising on them.”

Gartner goes further and thinks only a single per cent of netbooks sold globally over the next two years will be shipped to business. Perhaps this is a status thing. After all, no one wants a compact company car when they could have a prestige sedan so why would they settle for a Spartan laptop spec?

However, unenthusiastic predictions aside, a recent ZDNet leader column trumpeted that for such a small, unthreatening device aimed at teens, tweens, travellers and social networkers, the netbook has created a climate of terror among hardware makers. Enterprises want cheap hardware and have many mobile users so I question whether the absence of Windows is a sticking point for such organisations in the current climate. In addition, enterprise demands for manageability, security and configurability could enable vendors to claw back the lost hardware margins. Another point worth considering is that while PC laptops continue to crash in price is there really much value in providing netbooks to all the but the lightest travellers?
Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.