Notebook Fan or Desktop Diehard?

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?