REDMOND, Wash. — June 30, 2011 — The world of enterprise computing looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago, driven largely by the demands of an evolving workforce. Increasingly mobile employees, demand for improved efficiencies and productivity, streamlined collaboration and communication, and a need to access and manage sensitive data are the business trends driving technology innovation across the PC ecosystem.
As a result, Microsoft is working with manufacturers to design PCs that support work from anywhere more easily and more securely — whether that means staying put in an office, running a small business or globetrotting from one business meeting to another, laptop in hand.
Improvements in microprocessors, new chips that are more powerful, run cooler, and incorporate graphics, and processing on a single die are enabling thinner and lighter devices. New solid-state memory drives are adding a performance boost to storage in a much smaller package. Even the materials used to make PCs continue to evolve, with new materials ranging from plastics to a variety of aluminum-based alloys, giving engineers much more design flexibility.
Factor in today’s work environment, with mobility a paramount concern and the cloud playing an increasingly important role, and the ingredients add up to another technology transformation. Today, an emerging class of PCs for the business world is more secure, more durable and more powerful than ever, with sleek designs that are equally at home in the board room, the hotel room and the living room.
“Gone are the clunky beige boxes,” says vice president of Worldwide Marketing for Microsoft’s OEM division, Nick Parker, who is responsible for collaborating with hardware manufacturers as they bring new devices to market. “Today’s business-class PCs are not only fast, secure and powerful, but also mobile, beautiful and capable of crunching complex numbers or displaying the latest 3-D movie.”
According to Parker, whether it’s unique and interesting designs, faster and more powerful chips, multi-touch capabilities or connectivity options, all of these factors are culminating in business-class PCs that help enterprise customers work more securely, more remotely and more productively.
Built for Business
Business laptops go from meeting to meeting, in and out of the bag, in and out of cars and airplanes. All that mileage takes its toll on the machine, and durability is a key requirement for enterprise customers. With this design imperative in mind, today’s business-class PCs feature metal chassis, metal hinges, shock-resistant or solid-state drives, and high-definition screens with new types of hardened glass that provide both sharper viewing and resistance to those hard knocks of business life.
The new Samsung Series 9 Notebook PCs, for example, are made from a material called duralumin, which is more commonly used to build airplanes. Corning, a company perhaps best known for making highly durable cookware, developed a new hardened glass product called “Gorilla Glass” suitable even for the exterior of phones, and now making its way into PCs like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1.
These new materials are helping manufacturers address another demand by today’s age of mobile business: style. A byproduct of worker mobility is that laptops go with users wherever they are — with fewer distinctions between work and life. Instead of the big tan towers of yesteryear, today’s business users carry laptops around like a personal appendage and use them not just for work, but also for watching movies and staying connected with friends through social media.
“We have our laptops with us everywhere, both in a business context and in our personal lives, so in a sense they become part of our identity,” Parker says. “Enterprise and commercial customers are telling manufacturers on the one hand not to compromise on the core attributes of a business-class machine, and on the other, they want them to look cool, too.”
The no-compromises Sony VAIO SA, for example, offers bold, clean contours in a very slim, portable design, coupled with robust performance attributes, including Windows 7 Professional, Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors, and up to 15 hours of battery life with its optional sheet battery. Toshiba’s new Portege R830 weighs just over three pounds, yet it’s heavy on performance, loaded with Windows 7 Professional, a 640GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM and outstanding HD graphics capabilities packaged up with impeccable craftsmanship.
Along with increased mobility comes a greater need to collaborate across distances. To that end, many Windows 7 PCs, such as the Acer TravelMate Timeline X, combine powerful computing and security features with built-in webcams and microphones that allow for face-to-face interaction no matter where the next meeting happens to be.
Built for IT
Of course, IT departments have their own ideas when it comes to building the ideal PC for business use. These PCs, which are responsible for managing and securing numerous machines used for varying purposes across great distances, must address additional security, compliance and manageability features to make life easier for IT, as well as secure sensitive corporate data.
As an example, the ASUS B53J was specifically designed with manageability in mind, optimizing efficiency, reliability and security with business-class features, including a durable scratch-resistant casing and spill-proof keyboard, express battery charging capabilities, support for up to three separate monitors for multitasking, and anti-theft technologies, including the ability to disable the device if lost or stolen.
The latest advancement is the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip embedded in laptops to provide hardware encryption and enable a much higher level of security for PCs in the field, which is standard for nearly any commercial PC, including the HP ProBook 5330m. Another feature is docking, which turns a mobile laptop PC into a desktop PC by docking it to the desktop monitor, such as the Dell Vostro 3350.
Built for Speed
One of the most dramatic advancements in PCs in recent years has been the giant leap taken by micro-processor technologies, which enable devices to multitask and process information more quickly. AMD, Intel and NVIDIA are all leading the next generation of chips, which are smaller, faster, more efficient and have high-end graphics capabilities built in.
“Now the CPU doesn’t have to communicate with a separate graphics card,” Parker says. “With the systems we’ve seen in the last six months, you can get increased graphics performance from one integrated chipset.”
Solid-state drives also have emerged with similar storage and more speed than their traditional hard drive siblings, at a fraction of the size. New laptops from HP, Lenovo and others feature solid-state drive options with hundreds of gigabytes of storage. Though traditional hard drives still carry a variety of advantages, including greater storage capacity and good value, solid-state drives balance performance with size, facilitating ultraportable, thin and light designs.
According to Parker, the jump in performance, speed, mobility and security seen in PCs today is impressive. He points to Windows Experience Index scores in the seven-plus range that weren’t seen even a year ago without a significant investment.
“Not that long ago, you’d have to invest thousands of dollars in upgrading PC specs to get these kinds of scores, but now they’re included in many PCs right out of the box,” he says. “It’s Moore’s law in full effect, and that makes it an exciting time for the Windows ecosystem.”