Cloud computing will play a long-term role in lessening need for PCs with heavy processing power and shift appeal to less powerful devices with same or more functionality as apps are stored externally, but full-fledge PCs will see continued enterprise uptake in the short term.
Michael Kauh, research analyst at Canalys, pointed out that 2011 is the year when cloud computing becomes widespread. And the technology will reduce the need for PCs to require heavy processing power as applications would sit on an external or "decentralized cloud", he said during a phone interview with ZDNet Asia.
He did acknowledge that Internet connectivity is still not pervasive in the Asia-Pacific region, which makes it a potential roadblock to cloud computing uptake. This is why firms still need to consider the processing capabilities of their PCs for offline work and "full-fledge PCs" will continue to have relevance in the enterprise arena in the short term, he said.
Kauh did predict that as connectivity improves and more applications are moved to the cloud, enterprise PCs might need lesser processing power over time.
Paul Donovan, vice president and general manager of product marketing at Hewlett-Packard (HP) Asia-Pacific agreed with Kauh. The executive said in his e-mail that the company has yet to witness a significant shift in PC purchasing patterns due to cloud computing.
"While there is a strong demand for cloud computing among enterprises and the public sector in Asia, we are still on the cusp of widespread adoption in this region of the world," he said.
Donovan added that HP is consulting with enterprise customers to design PC products and technology to best suit their ongoing computing needs.
Taiwanese PC maker Asus chimed in, saying that rather than cloud computing impacting enterprise PC purchasing decisions, companies are looking at products that complement cloud such as slim and light notebooks, netbooks and tablets, instead.
Lightweight devices for mobile workers
Picking up on the point made by Asus, Kauh said lightweight notebooks with screen sizes between 11-inch and less than 14-inch are gaining traction among companies looking to equip their mobile workforce. Besides the screen size, he also noted that these devices tend to be more rugged and can withstand drops without breaking.
Ng Tian Beng, managing director for Dell South Asia and Korea, concurred. He highlighted that organizations are "paying closer attention to the durability and weight of the PCs" they invest on with the rise of the mobile workforce.
He added that good battery life is also an important factor along with enhanced security features to safeguard confidential company data.
Kauh also noted that beyond device features, enterprise customers are most concern about the support and after-sales service that comes with their purchases. The level of support provided can bump the prices of the devices up by almost double, even though they are not top-tier PCs, he added.
Intel's ultrabook prospects healthy
Quizzed whether the Intel-advocated ultrabook device will gain favor among companies, the Canalys analyst believes the product can become popular because the expected price point will be US$1,000 and below. That said, the eventual price could go up for enterprises looking for additional support, he stated.
Ng, however, pointed out that the ultrabook category will be better positioned as an alternative to tablet devices as it offers the convenience and portability of a slate together with the power and flexibility of a notebook.
He said the device has "great potential" in this context as users are demanding for devices that are both thin and powerful to allow them to bring to work as well as act as an entertainment device, without any compromise on computing power or battery life.
Donovan added the ultrabook device category allows PC vendors to combine powerful performance with always-on connectivity in a smaller form factor. Trade-offs in features, however, are inevitable to attain the right balance with the question being what those trade-offs are, he noted.
Intel had earlier pledged US$300 million to its Ultrabook Fund--created in August this year--to drive continuing growth in the device. The company explained the fund would "invest in companies building hardware and software technologies focused on enhancing how people interact with ultrabooks such as through sensors and touch, achieving all day usage through longer battery life, enabling innovative physical designs and improved storage capacity".