Read any recent breathless account of the future of desktop computing and you’ll be constantly assured that the desktop computer is deader than a Dodo that’s been cast in a Monty Python skit as a parrot. According to certain sections of the IT commentariat, the future is “Tablets! Tablets! Tablets!”, with offerings from Apple and Samsung replacing the dinosaur chassis that are produced by Dell, HP, and Lenovo.
I’m not discounting the fact that tablets are popular, but compared to desktop computers, they have the lifespan of a mayfly. Aside from questions about the readiness of productivity applications for everyday business use, the two primary issues that would need to be resolved before iOS and Android tablets are challengers to replace the boring old desktop are battery life and vendor OS support.
Consider vendor OS support. The first generation iPad was released only 4 years ago, yet it doesn’t support the current version of iOS. Android device support is even worse, with some devices no longer receiving OS updates less than 12 months after their initial release. Corporate environments almost always require vendor supported operating systems. Unless the length of time that Android and iOS tablets have OS support dramatically increases, organizations will be forced to replace them on a frequent basis.
The other primary issue is batteries. Tablet batteries have a finite lifespan, with 3 years a fairly good run. Apple ‘s website suggests that an iPad battery will last 1000 full charge cycles whilst retaining 80% of its original capacity. With most laptop computers, you can replace a battery that no longer has charge by ordering a new one. With tablets, the battery is often integrated into the device making replacement either expensive or impossible. Tablet batteries are unlikely to last 5 years if used on a daily basis. If iOS and Android tablets are going to replace desktops, they’ll need to radically extend their lifespan.
Whilst far from perfect, the desktop computer has evolved to service needs in a way that more specialist devices will be unable to for the foreseeable future. Perhaps one day we’ll see an iPad that has OS update support for 5 years and Android tablets that can automatically update to the most current version of Android years after they are unboxed. Until that time, the reign of the traditional desktop computer in corporate environments is unlikely to end.