It’s amazing how technically backward most offices are these days.
Depending on which research you read, anything up to half the First World’s workforce still hasn’t made it to Windows XP — a five-year-old operating system that’s due for replacement in about four months’ time. Hell, large numbers are still using Windows 2000 or even 98.
New Zealand isn’t likely to be substantially different.
The overwhelming majority of business desktops are powered by microprocessors dating from an era when people worried about clock speeds. Typically the PCs deployed in today’s offices kick along at considerably less than 2GHz.
LCD displays are increasingly common, but they grace a minority of workplace computers.
It’s a fairly safe bet that the average desktop hard drive in use today is 40GB or less even though it’s possible to buy fast 500GB models for a few hundred dollars. By the same token, most office machines are getting by with just 256MB of RAM. DVD drives, let alone burners, are far from commonplace.
Portable computers tend to have higher specifications. But that’s only because they have a shorter shelf life. Budget-conscious business owners can reasonably expect to extract seven or eight years out of a desktop computer — perhaps more with a little judicious upgrading. Because they get knocked about more, portables tend to fall apart sooner — maybe after three or four years’ active service.
In other words, companies are not investing in hardware. Actually, they’re not upgrading because there are few compelling reasons to do so. The systems they have are more than adequate for their applications. Sticking Microsoft Word on a state-of-the-art PC doesn’t get those documents written any faster. Browser-based applications need more bandwidth, not more processing power.
Windows Vista and the new version of Office could change this, but don’t hold your breath. Although Microsoft makes positive noises, saying you need more powerful hardware to get the full user experience, the reality is that any business choosing to move to Vista may also decide its workers can do without the fancy stuff.
On the other hand, any newer software can expose the shortcomings of creaky old systems.
The sad reality is most workers have significantly more advanced home computers than office desktops. In fact, with iPods and smartphones they probably carry more technology in their pockets than in their work computers.
Hopefully businesses will realise it is time to start investing in hardware when employees habitually go missing in order to work more effectively on PowerPoint presentations, major spreadsheets or big Word documents.
There are opportunities for resellers to service this work-from-home market; for example, offering business clients deals to help them ensure their workers are using the right kit when they log on from their rumpus room. On the other hand, we could just work on shaming businesses into ensuring workplace computer standards don’t fall too far behind domestic norms.