Why offices are ditching their PCs for iPads

iPad.

It’s no secret that more and more of us are ditching their desktops for tablets at home. It’s taking a toll on the tech companies that make PCs -- and the stuff that goes inside of them.

HP just laid off about 35,000 workers, in part, because its PC business has been in the dumps. Dell just got out of the PC business altogether. And Microsoft, which makes the operating systems for most of our desktops, has been in a tailspin.

Now the war is moving into the office. For the artisan chocolate maker TCHO, Pier 17 in San Francisco’s Embarcadero neighborhood is home to its huge warehouse and factory. TCHO is a small business with about 60 employees.

Brad Kintzer, TCHO’s Chief Chocolate maker, takes me inside his lab, which looks more like a big utility closet. 

Alongside one wall, there’s a line of small metal containers, cooking liquid chocolate.

“Different chocolates require different temperatures, different time cycles to create the optimal flavor,” Kintzer notes. “We do tests up to 40 hours here. It’s really a 24-hour process, seven days a week.” 

Getting the right flavor takes constant monitoring. But fortunately Kintzer doesn’t have to stand there the whole time.

“We have an iPad app that allows to remotely control a lot of what we do here in the lab,” he says.

“I’ve seen tablets used by the cable guys, telephone repair people, sales forces,” says Rocky Agrawal, payment and commerce analyst at reDesign Mobile. “Increasingly we’ll see doctors using them. We’ll also see education be a big user of tablets.”

Agrawal says tablets are taking a big bite out of PC sales in the consumer market. And now there are signs that the office could be up for grabs too.

Moody's Vice President and Senior Analyst Gerry Granovsky says, “What we’re seeing is since the rise of the tablets, when we look at the sales of PCs to businesses by standards of a couple years ago, the standards are certainly not there.”

Granovsky says sales of PCs to businesses have stalled. And increasingly, analysts suspect that PCs are being replaced by tablets. He says what’s driving the trend is the cloud.

“When you look at the confluence of what the tablets are doing and cloud computing,” Granovsky says, “it’s almost a perfect marriage.”

He says, not too long ago, tablets couldn’t run the software businesses needed. But that software is now moving onto the cloud. And companies, which were once skeptical storing data and running software off the cloud, are starting to trust it.

The big money is betting that the trend continues.

“Every productivity application you can think of email, documents, spreadsheets, presentations is being reimagined for mobile,” says Scott Jacobson, a venture capitalist at the Madrona Venture Group.

Right now, Apple -- with its iPad -- is the immediate winner. But with the battle for the office just beginning, analysts say Google’s Android and Microsoft can still catch up.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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