Traditional Desktops and Laptops Have a Different Role in 2020

If there is one thing companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are making abundantly clear with their new generation of products, it’s that the role of desktop and laptop computers is changing. 2020 will bring with it a new cloud-reliant wave of devices that may have all the features and functionality of last year’s models, but that operate on comparatively smaller software platforms.

According to NetMarketShare, mobile devices including smartphones make up 53.95% of the total web traffic for the past month. Desktop platforms like Windows 10 and macOS make up only 41.05%. Tablets are a distant third at 4.94%. This tells us one very important thing: More people are using their mobile devices and tablets to browse the web than a laptop or desktop.

That makes sense, considering phones and tablets are generally with you all day and easily accessible in seconds where a desktop or laptop PC takes more effort to set up and use. But, what does it tell us about regular, day-to-day usage? Are the roles of traditional PCs changing at home, too?

Cellphone and Smartphone Ownership Remains at Saturation while Traditional PCs in Decline

In 2018, Pew Research conducted a survey of U.S. adults concerning their technology ownership and usage habits. The survey found that between 2016 and 2018, the percentage of adults that owned a desktop or laptop computer fell from 78% to 73%.

During the same period of time, tablet ownership increased from 51% to 53%. Cellphone and smartphone ownership numbers remained the same at 95% and 77%, respectively.

During the first quarter of 2019, global PC shipments fell 4.6%, according to Gartner. This statistic includes a 6.3% drop in the U.S. market.

Chromebooks Dominate K-12 Education and Continue to Grow in Home Use

When Chrome first announced the Chromebook in 2011, analysts predicted that it would follow the same pattern as netbooks did before it. An initial uptick in adoption from early adopters and an ultimate decline as its always-connected and browser-based operating environment did not offer the same level of productivity as Windows or macOS.

As of September of 2019, StatCounter Global Stats reports that Chrome OS has a 6.41% market share among desktop operating systems in the U.S. Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint share a 1.54% total U.S. market share.

Among U.S. K-12 education, Chromebooks made up 59.8% of the total OS market share in 2018. That’s higher than macOS (4.1%), iOS (13.6%), and Windows (21.9%) combined.

Where are Desktops Heading?

ChromeOS’ recent updates giving it the ability to run Android apps from the desktop certainly add a lot of extra functionality to the devices, though their removal from a traditional desktop environment paints a picture of what’s to come.

Smartphones, tablets, and other Internet-connected mobile devices are becoming the primary method for home users to access the Internet and connect with their digital lives. Banking, appointment setting, communication, and data discovery is taking place more on mobile devices than ever before, making traditional desktop PCs extra rather than primary devices.

Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are providing additional alternatives to home users, enabling them to access information and control their electronic devices through voice rather than their PC.

As we head towards 2020, this trend shows no sign of slowing, and the role of these traditional desktop and laptop devices is undoubtedly going to continue to change.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson