Enterprise employees are using their mobile devices to do their jobs today, but the day when these devices usurp PCs as the preferred device for work is coming faster than you think, if the significant delta between PC and mobile devices sales is any indication.
Mobile devices are the way people work now. Today, enterprises are used to handing out PCs upon a person’s first day at the office. As an employee gets set up, though, businesses will quickly find that work is leaving those protected environments and happening, instead, on mobile devices.
PC sales are in decline worldwide
Mobile devices have a number of benefits over PCs and desktops. They are very powerful and significantly more portable than PCs. Employees are able to access data and systems critical to getting their jobs done from anywhere, while simultaneously having access to their personal lives and information. This means they don’t have to be seated at a desk, connected to Wi-Fi in order to complete quick tasks. This can happen in the lunch line, on the train, discretely in a meeting. Having work life and home life simultaneously accessible provides a peace of mind.
It’s no surprise, then, that PC shipments are in decline.
“Worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.9 million units in the third quarter of 2016, a 5.7 percent decline from the third quarter of 2015, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. This was the eighth consecutive quarter of PC shipment decline, the longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry,” according to a Gartner press release. 
Mobile devices, on the other hand topped 363.2 million shipments in the same quarter, a 1.1 percent increase year-over-year, according to analyst firm IDC.
It appears that according to Gartner’s some regional markets are shrinking faster than others, notably:
- Asia/Pacific PC shipments totaled 24.7 million units in the third quarter of 2016, a 7.6 percent decline from the third quarter of 2016."
- "PC shipments in EMEA surpassed 19.2 million units in the third quarter of 2016, a 3.3 percent decline from the same period last year."
- "In the United States, PC shipments totaled 16.2 million units in the third quarter, a 0.3 percent decline from the same period last year. This is the second consecutive quarter of flat year-over-year PC shipment growth."
“According to our 2016 personal technology survey, the majority of consumers own, and use, at least three different types of devices in mature markets. Among these devices, the PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to. Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again,” said Mikako Kitagawa, a Gartner principal analyst in the release.
The same seems to be mirrored for enterprises. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stated in a conference speech that the “replacement cycle for the PC has extended … Four years was the average, now it has moved to about five to six years,” according to a PC World article. He went on to note that it is easier to upgrade mobile devices.
“Content creation” versus “consumption”
Though the PC market is not growing, many believe it is an immovable fixture in our working lives because mobile devices are simply “consumption” devices. That is, people do not create content on a mobile device, they simply experience it.
For example, the belief is that an individual would write up a quarterly business plan on a PC, but may review that plan on their mobile device, especially if they are on the go.
This perception is rapidly changing, however, as mobile device manufacturers are always evolving to meet demand and better suit individuals’ needs.
The rise of the “Pro” tablet
Today, we see more and more employees using their smartphones for content creation. Employees have Google Docs downloaded to their devices, edit PDFs, and draft important emails using their mobile devices. The expectation that employees be readily available undoubtedly contributes to this trend.
Mobile device manufacturers are addressing the need to create content by integrating detachable keyboards onto their tablets, effectively reinventing the laptop. IDC references these as the “detachables” segment. The segment is typified by the iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface Pro, and Google Pixel C.
IDC expects to see 80 percent growth in Pro tablets this year, according to a press release on the “consolidated expansion of new form factors predicted in the second half of 2016 and beyond.”
There are two approaches to making these “Pro” tablets: Either by boosting the capabilities of an existing mobile platform, or by tweaking a full-featured platform to suit the hardware.
"The wave of available [detachable] devices on the market continues to increase and is accompanied by interest among enterprises for the adoption of detachables, as the form factor perfectly fits their mobility strategies,” Daniel Goncalves, research analyst, IDC European Personal Computing, stated in the release.
The Pro market is maturing, with a real choice of capable, trustworthy platforms. Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC, says, “Windows and iOS already have solid detachable offerings and with the latest version of Android, Google will also have a horse in the race.”
Work on mobile is only growing
Employees are using their mobile devices to do work today. Mobile device manufacturers are quickly creating important form factor changes that will enable employees to move their entire work processes to the mobile device. In the meantime, PCs are becoming a minority platform. There’s little to suggest that this two-year pattern of decline in the PC market will change.
In short, mobile is a powerful way to get work done and adoption will only continue to gain traction with employees.
In 2017, enterprises need to focus on expanding their mobility programs and seriously consider the security of those devices. The risk of not doing so is an increasing shadow IT environment in which sensitive data goes dark when it is taken off visible devices (i.e., PCs and desktops).
Interested in learning more about mobile trends and how to secure those devices? Contact Lookout today.
 Gartner, Gartner Says Worldwide PC Shipments Declined 5.7 Percent in Third Quarter of 2016, October 2016, http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3474218