IDC reported this week that 2008’s third quarter saw U.S. domestic notebook shipments cruise past a 50 percent share of the personal computer market, not for the first time but reaching a convincing 55.2 percent. As usual, the broader market trails Apple in the trend line, […]

IDC reported this week that 2008’s third quarter saw U.S. domestic notebook shipments cruise past a 50 percent share of the personal computer market, not for the first time but reaching a convincing 55.2 percent. As usual, the broader market trails Apple in the trend line, in this instance by a wider-than-usual margin. Notebooks’ first exceeded a 50 percent share of Apple’s system sales back in 2004 when it sold some 1,665,000 laptops vs. 1,625,000 iMacs and Power Macs.

The only question I have about this is how come it took so long? For more than a decade I’ve been advocating notebooks as “the logical Mac” for most users, being a convert since it took me about half a day after unpacking my first PowerBook a dozen years ago to recognize that portables were the way I wanted to go with computing, and I’ve never really looked back except for a brief dalliance with a G4 Cube in 2001. Ever tried using a desktop computer in bed? I like computing while reclining, and keep one of my quiet, cool-running Pismo PowerBooks by my bed most of the time, parked on a Laptop Laidback stand — not a mode that lends itself to practicality with a desktop computer.

You can also convert your ‘Book into a virtual desktop Mac for workstation use. Just plug in an external monitor, keyboard and mouse, whatever Ethernet, USB or FireWire peripherals you need, and you’re set. I find that the laptops just give me a fantastic amount of flexibility, convenience, and versatility compared with desktops.

The Puzzler: Why don’t notebooks enjoy an even larger market share?

Back in ’96 I hadn’t expected the laptop to essentially replace my desktop Mac, but that’s what happened almost immediately, leaving me wondering ever since why so many computer users continue to use desktop machines even if they don’t require the greater power and expandability of a desktop machine. I suppose desktop advocates do have a point about ruggedness and reliability, although my Mac laptops have been gratifyingly robust. Price used to be another explanation, but is much less compelling than it used to be. Never say never, but I doubt I’ll ever buy another desktop Mac. I’m really not comfortable anymore using a machine that doesn’t support battery-powered, portable operation.

Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate the strong points of a good desktop Mac. More power and power per dollar: greater expansion potential, easier to work on, more flexibility of configuration and upgrading. But once you’ve got the portable computer bug, desktops, nice as they can be, will just never do it for you again in the same way.

Strong Consumer Preference is for Notebooks

Apparently, at the consumer level, a healthy majority agrees with me. IDC’s U.S. Quarterly PC Tracker and Personal Systems research manager David Daoud noted in a press release that the consumer market has long favored notebooks, with mobile computer sales exceeding the 70 percent mark, so enterprise desktop work stations would account for keeping desktop market share higher than it otherwise would be, but Daoud observes that the enterprise and public sector buyers are beginning to perceive good value in mobility.

How about you? Have you switched to a laptop or considered doing so, or are you a desktop diehard?

  1. I use both. I work day-to-day on a desktop. I simply cannot get enough power in a laptop — I have an 8-core 3 GHz Mac Pro, with 8 GB of RAM and a 750 GB boot disk (which I back up internally), as well as a pair of mirrored 1 TB drives (which is, fortunatley enough on OS X, a lot faster than a standalone drive). I have about 200 GB of photos (RAW files from Canon 1D Mark II and 1Ds Mark III), which I manage and tweak with Aperture and Photoshop, and with associated other files, have a total of about 350 GB of stuff on my data drive. Given you _really_ don’t want to let your HD get more than 75% full or it will start to slow down… this is just something I could not do on a laptop. I also have it hooked to a 30″ display.

    The laptop I use when visiting customers, or when traveling when I need a portable laptop that I can do some quick and dirty photo editing on. I can easily sync the stuff I want using ChronoSync, so I do this before I go on the road.

    Many people don’t need the same amount of power.. but there’s no way with a portable I could solve the HD issue.

  2. To me, laptops are a transitional device. I’ve found them to be a compromise on convenience and power, neither truly convenient nor sufficiently powerful. I think the iPhone/iPod Touch signals the beginning of the end of this era. I know it may seem out there to see a cliff where all signs point to a trend/surge. But I find my Touch infinitely more convenient for most of my laptop needs. It might take another decade for this form factor to become sufficiently powerful to replace laptops. But if Apple continues to innovate its user experience, I have little doubt it will. On the other end of the spectrum, I still wouldn’t trade my personal iMac or work MacPro for any laptop (though the new MacBook specs are sweet). For me, the user experience is just so much better on this more traditional machine. I also do fairly graphics/memory intensive work and am not a road warrior.

  3. Here’s one vote for the desktop, because I create documents and media files in particular. If I was using a computer only for communication, then the laptop would be my first choice.

  4. Patrick Santana Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    I agree with John Smith. I can not get the power that I need in a laptop. So when I really need power, I use my 8-core 2.8 with much more memory and HD; otherwise I use the laptop.

  5. I’m using a Macbook Pro right now, but my next computer will be a Mac Pro desktop. I work in an office with a PC, so I don’t need to carry it there. I tend to do all my computer stuff in my office at home, and I’d rather have two huge screens than my 17″ laptop screen and another larger screen (even though the larger screen is a 30″ one). I’m also going to be doing more video editing and After Effects, so the extra power won’t hurt. More upgradeable, too.

  6. Several months ago I sold my trusty MacBook for a 24″iMac. If the new MacBooks were on the market, I probably would’ve gotten another MacBook, along with a 24″ Cinema Display.

  7. I have switched from using notebooks for the 5 past years to an iMac 24″ desktop primary for performance reasons – a faster CPU, larger hard drive and most importantly a higher quality and brighter screen. Notebooks are good for most but for production they can’t quite complete with desktops and the margin is widening as desktops get 500GB+ drives and 4+ core CPUS that notebooks don’t have yet.

  8. I love my 15inch macbook pro to bits, it’s awesome and quite powerful, and I love the ability to surf the internet while I’m in bed, if I wouldn’t rely on computers to do my work I’d settle by a laptop. ps: it’s great to have a computer in blackouts :)

  9. Patrick Santana Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    I think if I use the computer for something more than internet, I would not do it at my bed… and I also would need more power.

    But it is a great solution for simple-medium tasks. But not for very complex.

  10. Where have you been when you say you can’t use a desktop in bed?? Have you not seen the gorgeous imac 24in with remote control for watching your favourite programmes and the wireless keyboard and mouse for normal computing. Time for you to wake up and look beyond your one of my quiet, cool-running Pismo PowerBooks or should that be quaint?


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