Who uses notebook PCs? Four of five managers

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The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey is based on a telephone survey of 100 readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT or systems managers.

Government users are going whole hog for notebook PCs. In a recent telephone survey, 82 percent of IT managers GCN talked with used a notebook.

And among the 18 percent that didn't tote one, more than a quarter planned to get a notebook in the next 24 months.

One current nonuser, a Veterans Affairs Department systems analyst in Washington, expects to acquire a notebook PC in the near future for taking work on the road. He said his agency would provide it.

But that's not always the case. 80 percent of nonusers who plan to buy notebooks said their agencies would foot the bill.

Of current users, 94 percent told us their notebooks were agency-supplied.

Most managers'80 percent of the sample'blended their notebook and desktop PC use to varying degrees. Forty-three percent of them have docking stations at the office for their notebooks.

For the remaining 20 percent, a notebook is their only PC. That's up slightly from the 18 percent of notebook-only users in a GCN survey of notebook PC trends two years ago.

One of the solo users in the most recent survey was an Agriculture Department computer specialist in Rock Falls, Ill., who especially likes the portability of a notebook for the presentations he makes on the road.

But for most managers in the survey sample, using a notebook PC is a double-edged sword. They extolled the portability and convenience but complained mightily about other aspects.
Short battery life was a common grievance. Another recurrent complaint concerned pointing devices; they tend to be awkward and difficult to manipulate.

'It's clumsy to use,' said an Air Force systems manager in Springfield, Ill.

Others abominated the hodgepodge of peripherals and external hardware that often encumber notebook use.

'I don't like having to carry extra components like [battery] chargers and external drives,' said a Bureau of Reclamation IT specialist in Durango, Colo.

Echoing that response was a technical coordinator for the city of Farmington, N.M., who griped about 'the CD-ROM and floppy drives not being integrated.'

Other managers beefed about weight.

'It's portable and compact,' said a Postal Service telecommunications specialist in New York. 'But I do get tired of having to lug it around.'

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