Feds expect to significantly step up notebook use

Feds expect to significantly step up notebook use

Respondents predict increased use in next one to three years, expect decline in desktop PCs

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Look for the upsurge in notebook computer use on the government scene to continue.

In a recent GCN telephone survey, feds predicted a substantial increase in their notebook use over the next few years'to more than a third of their computing time.

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on computer and communications trends, technologies and product preferences. This survey on notebook computer trends is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription application forms identified themselves as users of notebook PCs.

They also anticipated a corresponding decline in time spent at desktop PCs.

Survey respondents on average said they currently use their notebooks 27 percent of the time and desktop PCs 73 percent of the time.

In the next one to three years, they expected to step up notebook use to an average of 34 percent of the time, against 66 percent for their desktops.

One of the feds who anticipated doing more notebook toting within the next 36 months is Jay Hokanson, an electrical engineer for the Federal Communications Commission in Lakewood, Colo. He uses a notebook from NEC America Inc. of Melville, N.Y., mostly when he's traveling.

Hokanson estimated that he utilizes his notebook for about 25 percent of his computing time, with the rest of it at his desktop PC.

In the next one to three years, Hokanson predicted the percentages will level out to about 50-50.

'I'll probably be spending more time out of the office, and maybe will be doing a small amount of telecommuting with the notebook as well,' he said.

At Hill Air Force Base in northern Utah, computer specialist Stephen Huntington, who goes on the road with an Inspiron 7000 from Dell Computer Corp., also foresees a rise in his notebook use, from about 20 percent of the time to roughly 40 percent.

That will occur, he said, simply as a matter of course as portable-computer technologies improve.

'I'm very keen on the new technologies maturing enough to create the capacities and abilities that the desktop has within a notebook,' Huntington said. 'There's a lot of work you can't do from a notebook that you can do from the desktop. But when wireless communications and the security of those communications mature, then the desktop can become more portable.'

He also looks forward to developments such as voice-actuated input, which will reduce the typing he has to do on cramped notebook keyboards.

What's your gripe?

Despite the shortcomings of notebooks'users polled griped mostly about too much weight, short battery life and hard-to-use pointing devices [GCN, Aug. 21, Page 24]'18 percent of feds in the survey have dispensed with desktop PCs altogether. They're using their notebooks full-time.

In San Diego, for example, Navy maintenance coordinator Tom Bunch's constant companion is his Dell Inspiron 7500''much to my wife's chagrin.'

'I like the mobility of using a notebook,' said Bunch, who parks his Inspiron in a docking station when he's in the office. 'You can take it anywhere.'

But most feds surveyed'82 percent'still use their notebooks principally for out-of-the-office computing, not as replacements for their desktop PCs.

About 72 percent of those surveyed said they take their notebooks on the road either all the time'45 percent'or most of the time'27 percent.

Of the feds who carry notebooks on the road, 83 percent used their machines to access e-mail, the Internet, agency intranets and enterprise data from remote locations.

E-mail was the biggest item on the list. Almost all of the feds in the survey'99 percent'used their notebooks to send and receive messages when on the road.

Ninety-eight percent said they used a wired modem for remote access. Only 7 percent employed another technology, such as a wireless device, the survey found.


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