Portable Devices vs. Laptops and Desktop PCs

Portable Devices vs. Laptops and Desktop PCs

In the constantly changing digital world, small portable digital devices such as smartphones and tablets continue to gain popularity, though desktop and laptop personal computers are still to be reckoned with.

Google announced in May that, for the first time, the number of mobile Google searches in the U.S. surpassed the number of searches conducted with personal computers. Partly in response to this trend, in April, Google began penalizing websites that aren't available in mobile-friendly versions by ranking them lower in search results by those using mobile devices. Google sent emails to sites it deemed weren't mobile-friendly and offers Web developers its free Mobile-Friendly Test tool, with developers responsible for enacting any changes.

Verizon also is making waves with mobile. In late June, it completed its $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL (formerly known as America Online), the once mighty online service that got millions of people connected for the first time over dial-up telephone lines in the 1990s. AOL may be a shadow of its former self, but it's strong these days in the mobile and video advertising spaces, and it's for this reason Verizon went after it. AOL owns technology for automating ads using computer algorithms that target specific audiences as well as a real-time bidding platform that helps advertisers place video ads. AOL also owns the popular websites Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Engadget, and despite the emergence of broadband Internet access 15 years ago, AOL still has 2.1 million dial-up subscribers.

Though consumers, businesses, and other organizations continue to buy millions of desktop and laptop PCs, this market continues to slowly shrink. Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.7 million units in the first quarter of 2015, according to estimates by market research firm Gartner. But this was a 5.2-percent drop from a year earlier.

Desktop PCs led the decline, with sales of laptop PCs actually growing. Gartner is predicting a moderate drop in overall PC shipments for all of 2015 but "slow, consistent growth" over the next five years.

Lenovo and HP were the only two PC makers among the top five that experienced an increase in overall PC shipments in first quarter 2015, according to Gartner. HP and Dell, in order, sell the most PCs in the U.S., though Lenovo and HP sell the most worldwide. HP and Dell are followed in U.S. sales by Apple, Lenovo, and Asus.

Much about the future of PCs depends on the success of Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 10, which should be available on new PCs and as an optional upgrade to existing PCs this summer. With Windows 10, Microsoft has moved away from the Windows 8 tablet interface hated by so many PC users and rediscovered a PC interface. The company also is breaking with its tradition and making upgrades to it from Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 for free.

Portability has its advantages, but larger portable devices such as laptop PCs and stationary devices such as desktop PCs let you do certain tasks faster and with less stress to your body.

A larger screen makes it possible to see more and is easier on your eyes and neck. Typing on a larger, separate keyboard is faster and is easier on your hands and wrists. Larger devices have faster processors and more memory and storage space, which can make them more appropriate when working on photos, video, and music, doing computer-aided design and computer programming, and playing computer games. Larger devices typically also let you work on more than one task more conveniently.

Nonetheless, there's a certain magic to portability. Here's just one example that really drives home how a small device can help you get around. It's the Apple Maps Dropped Pin trick for finding where you parked your car.

Before you leave your parked car, turn on your iPhone and open Maps. Tap the location arrow at the bottom left to highlight your location. Tap the “i” button at the bottom right, then tap "Drop a Pin." Exit Maps and turn off your phone.

To get back to your car, turn on your phone and reopen Maps. Tap "Dropped Pin" then "Directions to Here" to get walking directions. When you're back to your car, tap "Remove Pin."

You can employ a similar trick with an Android phone and Google Maps.