Salary Survey Extra: Desktop and laptop computers in the workplace

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

How much of your typical workday do you spend using a desktop or laptop computer?Some people reading these words probably haven’t been using a computer for 30 years or more. There are certainly some of you out there who can relate, however, and it’s interesting to think about what’s changed across three decades. For example, you’ve probably been using a mouse, and you’ve definitely been using a keyboard the entire time.

On the other hand, how long have you had a setup, either in the office or at home, that includes two (or more) monitors? Lots of people agree that using a computer with two or more monitors is a “once you’ve tried you can never go back” situation. But only a fraction of computer users had tried it as recently as 10 years ago.

Change happens gradually, but PC technology has definitely evolved over time. So-called “desktop” computers have become increasingly rare, with laptops and docking stations replacing towers and boxes. (Full disclosure: These words are originating from a docked laptop connected to a dual-monitor display with wireless keyboard and mouse.)

Smartphones and tablets have gradually gotten both more powerful and more cross-functional with traditional desktop and laptop computers. Are we on the brink of another evolution that will push laptops toward the fringe, and maybe push desktops out of the workplace technology picture entirely?

It’s hard to create a picture without being able to peek into a broad cross-section of IT workplaces. Thanks to the Salary Survey, however, we have an opportunity each year to do just that. So we asked certified IT professionals to what extent, broadly speaking, they are still tied to a more or less conventional desktop and/or laptop computing setup. Here’s what we learned:

Q: How many hours per day do you use a desktop or laptop computer to do your current job?

I never use a desktop or laptop computer. — 0.4 percent
An hour or so per day — 0.6 percent
A couple of hours per day — 1.2 percent
3 to 4 hours per day — 2.3 percent
5 to 6 hours per day — 8.8 percent
7 to 8 hours per day — 31.9 percent
More than 8 hours per day — 26.3 percent
Everything I do requires a desktop or laptop computer. — 28.5 percent

First off, there is a tiny fraction of survey respondents who don’t use a desktop or laptop computer for anything. If that’s the future of workplace computing, however, then we may not actually get there for a while. Even when we raise the usage meter all the way to “only” 5 or 6 hours per day,  we’ve barely captured 14 percent of the total survey population.

Nearly a third of all survey respondents use a laptop or desktop computer to get IT done for 7 or 8 hours every day. And out of the remaining roughly 55 percent of all survey respondents, 26.3 percent use a desktop or laptop computer more than 8 hours per day, and 28.5 percent use a desktop or laptop computer for every work-related thing they do.

Tablets and smartphones clearly have a role in the IT workplace ecosystem. We’ll have more data about that next week. But the desktops and laptops aren’t on the way out. Or maybe desktop computers are becoming scarcer by the day and laptops are doing the real heavy lifting. Maybe we can dive into that topic the next time that the Salary Survey comes around.

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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