Alan Zisman (c) 2002
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #671 September 3-9.2002 High Tech
While computer sales haven't been particularly
late, sales of portable computers have remained relatively robust, now
for almost 24 per cent of worldwide PC sales. People, it seems, like
computers they can tote around with them.
Certainly, I'm always seeing notebook computers being
in airport terminals and during flights, and even on BC Ferries.
being used for may be questioned, however. On a recent
trans-continental flight, I casually spied on the dozen or so notebook
computer users. One person
was obviously doing work. Most of the rest, however, were using the
presumably employer-supplied technology to watch DVD movies in
to the in-flight entertainment.
Most of today's notebooks fall into one of three
broad categories. Desktop replacement models are relatively heavy, with
large screens: 15-inch or even larger 16-inch models from Sony
and Toshiba, with a
full complement of drives and connectors, commanding a high-end price.
models promise less: small screens and short battery life, leaving
drives and connection ports in an effort to minimize weight. Ultralight
demonstrates that less can cost more.
Most models fall somewhere in the middle, weighing
and three kilograms, with a 13-inch or 14-inch screen, CD-ROM, CD-RW,
DVD drive. Within this value-priced category, higher-end models will
more connection options, including built-in Ethernet networking and
Firewire and wireless connectivity.
Notebooks are more expensive than equivalent desktop
computers. Moreover, there are hidden costs. Like theft. Notebooks
remain thief-magnets. Budget $50 to $100 for a lock, and perhaps
investigate signing on with Vancouver-based Absolute
Software's Computrace service, which sets up your notebook (PC
to phone home if stolen, reporting its whereabouts. And make sure you
a good backup strategy, and use it. Your data is probably more valuable
all too often harder to replace than the actual hardware. It's also not
Compared to desktop computers, notebooks are harder
expensive to expand. Try to anticipate your future requirements when
A year ago, I bought a new PC notebook thinking that while it lacked
Ethernet, I could easily use the network card I already owned in its PC
(or PCMCIA) slot. But now I would also like to be able to use fast
Firewire drives and other devices with it, and I've found, to my
that it's hard to get both Firewire and Ethernet networking cards
in at the same time. I should have paid a little more. (Apple's
including its lower-end iBook, totally lack PC Card expandability but
up for it by having virtually all the connection options one could want
Because portable computers are, well, portable, they
get bumped and sometimes dropped. Even with the best of care, things
tend to go wrong at a far higher rate than with desktop computers.
Hinges crack, hard drives fail, and screens smash. And because notebook
parts are relatively non-standard, repair costs are high. It costs
almost as much to replace a notebook's screen as to buy a new notebook.
Brass Ring chief information officer Andy
notebook users needed support 10 to 20 times as frequently as desktop
Notebooks have half the lifespan of their desktop counterparts, Cooper
Many business users think they want a notebook
computer in order to take their work home. Given the higher purchase
and maintenance price of
portable computers, a less costly strategy may be to provide employees
a computer for home as well as for work, and spring for a high speed
connection with a virtual private network secure link to the office
Of course, then you'll be stuck watching whatever
movie is playing
on your flight.