The world is undergoing a "PC-plus evolution", where the personal computer remains at the heart of an ecosystem of tablets, smart phones and smart television sets, according to leading computer-maker Lenovo.
In this PC-plus era, the PC remains central to the digital lives of millions of people and businesses, according to a perspective shared by the China-based giant.
Its perspective for this year and beyond shows a number of key trends that will shape the PC-plus era. They include:
The PC is very much alive
A survey conducted by IT market-intelligence firm International Data Corp (IDC) last April showed that 91.3 per cent of respondents do not consider tablets as replacements for PCs. The same survey also found that 58.5 per cent of respondents bought a tablet to be used in addition to a laptop, and not as a replacement.
While some tablets may be closing the performance gap with PCs in terms of hardware, and office productivity software becomes available on mobile devices, the creation of content still demands a PC’s form factor for better input accuracy.
The existence of a market for physical keyboards designed for tablets suggests that tablet users continue to face a compromised experience when entering text on their device’s touch screen during content creation. The additional bulk of packing a keyboard also diminishes the space savings afforded by using a smaller device.
In absolute terms, the PC industry represents a US$200-billion (Bt6.58 trillion) market and offers substantial opportunity for profitable growth.
There continues to be room for innovation for the PC platform to make it even more relevant and desirable than before. Convertible PCs, like table PCs, are an example of this continued innovation.
Lenovo sees great potential to grow the market for convertible PCs as it continues to lead and innovate in this category with products like the Yoga series, having also expanded it to include multimode devices that include the Flex 14 and 15 laptops, as well as Horizon Table PC and Flex 20 All-In-One (AIO).
This growth potential will be driven by declining production costs for key components such as processors, storage and touch technologies.
While the PC continues to be relevant in the technology industry, PC refresh cycles are expected to extend as people and businesses seek to balance budgets between the purchases of PCs and other mobile devices in the PC Plus space.
As a result, there will be greater emphasis on product reliability, particularly for businesses, as their PCs need to be durable enough to meet the demands of longer operating lifespans.
Holy Grail in the mobile era
As competition continues to stiffen in the industry for mobile devices, manufacturers regularly tout their products’ latest hardware and features, like QHD (quad high-definition) screen displays, high-megapixel cameras and multi-core processors. These product specifications are frequently highlighted as differentiating features, but they often come at the expense of battery life.
A device that is out of battery has zero features. With this unforgiving reality in mind, battery life should be one of the top considerations for end-users – and therefore manufacturers, as well – as consumers become increasingly mobile.
Lenovo expects products that enable all-day computing will be one of the focuses this year, as users seek to rid themselves of the reliance on additional power sources while on the move and become truly mobile.
Combining modern product design with all-day battery life is possible with innovations like Lenovo’s new Power Bridge technology, which allows users to swap external batteries without powering down their PC.
This “hot swap” feature – available in Lenovo’s new range of ThinkPad Ultrabooks (T440s, T440 and X240) – provides flexibility and maximum battery life in almost any situation, achieving up to 17 hours of battery life and extending productivity beyond all day.
The emphasis on battery life extends also to tablets. Lenovo’s Yoga Tablet features an ergonomic design in the form of a cylindrical handle that makes it more comfortable for users to hold the device in one hand.
The handle also packs in powerful, dual batteries typically found in laptops, offering dramatically longer battery life – up to 18 hours – which is significantly more than typical tablets.
The commercial segment is expected to expand to a fifth of the tablet market by 2017 as companies are increasingly picking up tablets for various use cases, such as equipping their mobile sales force, retail employees, field operations staff and basic productivity purposes for employees to stay connected and augment their productivity.
Tablets for education
Educational institutions, such as the University of Sydney in Australia, have also introduced tablet devices like the ThinkPad Tablet 2 for academic staff and college students to use on campus.
In the second half of this year, the overall tablet market is expected to grow as hybrid, detachable tablets like the ThinkPad Helix and the next wave of tablet innovations fuel a new wave of growth for the category.
In line with businesses’ growing adoption of bring your own device (BYOD), there is also an opportunity for consumer-oriented tablets like the Yoga Tablet to be used in the commercial space, as long as they meet the requirements of the business.
For businesses with an existing cloud service, IT managers can ensure the tablets are secured via cloud-based software for these products.
As the adoption of BYOD continues in Asia-Pacific, Lenovo expects a new trend to emerge in line with IDC’s predictions, whereby eligible employees are provided a choice of devices they can use for work.
Termed choose your own device (CYOD), this model offers the benefits of management and security which can be standardised and guaranteed, and business processes can be mobilised.
Having a strong portfolio of products that meet different end-user requirements, while making it easier for IT administrators to manage the fleet of mobile computing devices, will result in a win-win situation for both businesses and employees.
Lenovo expects to tap into market opportunities for profitable growth as it continues to innovate in every product category in the PC-plus space, and maintain the strong execution of its successful “protect and attack” strategy during the year.