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Study: Desktop's days on the decline

Within three years, less than half of corporate workers will use a desktop PC as their primary information device--moving to notebooks or thin clients, according to a report.

Within three years, less than half of corporate workers will use a desktop PC as their primary information device, with many switching to notebooks and connecting over a thin client, according to the Meta Group.

The desktop PC has been the corporate user's main information tool for about 20 years, but with the falling cost of laptops and the rapid evolution of wireless networks, Meta expects the PC's popularity to plummet as information workers adopt new technologies.

Steve Kleynhans, vice president of Meta's technology research services, said that 45 percent of corporate users will still use a desktop PC as their main information tool, but 40 percent will prefer a notebook or tablet PC. The final 15 percent will migrate to a thin-client or an alternative "information appliance."

Kleynhans describes 60 percent of information workers as "corridor warriors" that roam from meeting to meeting. These types of workers could be more productive if they had "access to basic information (for example, e-mail, instant messaging, or Web browsing) and note-taking capabilities while attending meetings on premises," he said.

Although the desktop PC is far from dying, its importance as a tool for accessing corporate information and communicating with colleagues is diminishing. "By 2007, the average user will interact regularly with at least four distinct computing devices--a personal home PC, smart digital entertainment system, corporate computer, and mobile information device," Kleynhans said.

Kleynhans also predicts a reincarnation of the smart display. Microsoft recently killed off its consumer-focused product, but Kleynhans said he expects the technology to reappear in the corporate environment, due to the need for roaming access to data while on the corporate premises.

"The devices could even be shared among users or possibly kept in meeting rooms. Any costs should be outweighed by the increase in meeting productivity for most knowledge workers," said Kleynhans.

Blade servers, which combine many low-cost PCs inside a single chassis, are gaining in popularity and can produce significant cost benefits when used to deliver specific applications or an alternative operating system, or to provide dedicated processing power.

"Blades will become a commonplace solution implemented primarily in the same places that Citrix/Windows Terminal Server (WTS) solutions are currently applied," Kleynhans said. "By 2006, blades will replace traditional PC form factors for roughly only 10 percent of users."

Munir Kotadia of ZDNet UK reported from London.