A disconnect has been emerging between the perception and reality of mobile workstation sales and usage. Since its emergence almost a decade ago, I've viewed the mobile workstation as a slam-dunk when it came to replacing conventional corporate/consumer notebooks, as they are far more appropriate devices for hard-core graphics professionals. But especially recently, the buzz about mobile machines becoming more than road-warrior tools — but instead deskside replacements —has gotten louder.
Now, I haven't been talking up a major shift to mobiles, despite the buzz, as I've maintained there are fundamental reasons workstation users won't make the move en masse the way the mainstream has. While the mobile workstation has indeed established itself as a major contributor (roughly a quarter of all units sold), desksides are still the dominant majority. Mobiles remain a critical tool for the hard-core workstation user, but unless that user's really out of the office for the majority of his time, the mobile isn't going to replace the deskside, at least not in the majority of cases.
A while back, Intel CEO Paul Otellini officially declared the end of the desktop's reign as the leading PC form factor, having been passed in volume by notebooks (and all its derivative mobile forms). But as one might expect after thinking about typical professional usage models, the workstation market doesn't play by the same rules.
Contrary to the perception of some, the mobile form factor's share of the workstation market has been flat for the past two years (bouncing around the 25% level) and really hasn't changed that much since four years ago, when it accounted for about 20% of sales.
Now there's no doubt the mobile workstation will remain a vibrant and valuable segment of the workstation market — and might take the place of desksides in niche pockets to address special circumstances. But the fact that its share flattened after a strong period of growth reinforces the notion that it won't be a broad-based replacement for its more traditional, fixed-location sibling
Would you give up your deskside CAD workstation for a mobile? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let us know.