The Logic of Laptops
If you’ve read my colleague’s “In Defense of Desktops,” John goes to great lengths to point out the advantages of provisioning your employees with good, old-fashioned towers. And while I agree that laptops aren’t right for every person’s needs, I respectfully disagree with his determination that the desktop should be king.
I can’t argue with the cost; A desktop will nearly always cost less than a laptop with similar specs. However, after looking at a few big-name business model desktops, I see that many laptops will run, on average, only about $100-$200 more than comparable desktop models. Whether the form factor justifies that difference in cost depends entirely on your organization’s needs, but personally, I find a laptop allows me the flexibility to work in any environment, while maintaining consistency and security.
In his article, John rightfully highlights the importance of ergonomics. While I agree that the peripherals attached to one’s workstation should be made to maximize comfort and health, I beg to differ. I believe you don’t need to sacrifice comfort in order to take advantage of a laptop’s portability. In order to be viable for everyday work, a laptop needs all the same accessories as a desktop. The peripherals I use with my machine are similar to John: a USB hub, ergonomic mouse, keyboard, and a 32-inch monitor, which is bright, clear, and has all the visual real-estate I need. My office at home has nearly the same setup; I need only unplug four cables when I leave the office, carry a couple pounds of weight home with me, and pick up exactly where I left off if I need to burn the midnight oil.
Which brings me to the laptop’s clear advantage: versatility. In a workforce that increasingly values mobility, issuing a laptop gives an employee the freedom to work from anywhere, while still maintaining an employer’s IT policies and security., A laptop also retains an employee’s programs and settings. Are there ways to get similar results without providing a laptop? Absolutely. But virtual machines and cloud solutions require additional setup and cost, while using a laptop means provisioning one machine, once, and allowing your employees to move seamlessly between locations with barely a hiccup. While some would say this is only a consideration for those who travel widely, I disagree. I haven’t needed to travel for work for some time, but being able to carry my workspace with me gives me the flexibility to keep my work-life balance, and keeps me working after a sudden snow drop.
Again, which solution has more value is a determination that’s highly individual to your business needs. If your employees are not required to work remotely or do little traveling, the desktop wins the cost vs performance battle. If your work requires highly customized hardware, high processing power and the ability to contain the Matrix, it might be difficult to source a laptop to meet those needs without a blank check. But for others, I think it’s well worth weighing whether the perks of mobility outweigh the difference in cost.