Dell’s Latitude 12 E7240 – The Case for Business Laptops

I’ve been thinking about and lately due to a confluence of recent events. First, both IDC’s and Gartner’s most recent PC market tracking surveys suggested a significant slowing in the declines that have plagued PC sales for the past few years. It’s too early to tell if this signals long term stability (with annual sales of about 300M units globally) or even an upward trend, but it still spells good news for PC makers who have been under the gun.

Second, ’s sales have been essentially flat since Q2 2013, the company’s banner quarter in tablet revenues. That doesn’t mean that the is failing—Apple still sold over $30B of iPads during Q2 2014—but the market’s leading vendor hitting a wall does suggest that all those breathy proclamations of the “end of the PC era” that captured the IT industry’s attention a couple of years ago were little more than PR smoke-blowing. The truth is that many or even most people continue to purchase (and ) as companions for PCs, not replacements.

That point was also curiously highlighted at last week’s launch of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. New company CEO Satya Nadella pointedly insisted that the company is “not interested in competing with our OEMs when it comes to our hardware.” But that was contradicted by design lead Panos Panay saying, “This is the tablet that can replace your laptop.” Panay may have simply been overly enthusiastic, but he underlined how important alternative businesses are to Microsoft given the shift toward cloud and other offerings where the role of operating systems is negligible or entirely invisible.

So can tablets, including the new Surface Pro 3, truly replace laptops? That depends. For consumers, especially those who use laptops and PCs for little more than media consumption, email/messaging, social networking and similar lightweight tasks, maybe so. But for business users, not so much. Let’s consider why that’s the case related to my testing of a new , the company’s top end business class ultra-mobile laptop.

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NOTE: This column was originally published in the .

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