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HP Tech@Work
Today's trends for tomorrow's business
How much smaller can PCs get?

How Much Smaller Can PCs Get?

Since their creation, personal computing devices have grown smaller with each successive generation. Bulky mainframes evolved into more pragmatic desktops, which later gave way to sleek notebooks. Handheld tablets and smartphones now pack significant computing punch.
But is the era of the incredible shrinking PC over?
Lately, smartphones have been getting bigger, not smaller, and consumers have expressed an interest in larger-screen offerings—specifically, 4.7 inches and up. [1]
But there are also new advancements in small form factors that could have a potential big-time impact on businesses. More and more, duties once dominated by desktops and notebooks are finding a home on smartphones and tablets. It’s a promising development that will allow your staff to do the same work with fewer devices.

PCs go small—and smaller

According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled around every two years. With this consistent increase in the processing power available in the same physical space, the size of processors has continually decreased—and the size of computers has, too. The HP Spectre, for instance, is the world’s thinnest laptop at just 10.4mm—an unthinkable size just a decade ago. [2]
And we’re far from done.
Recently, IBM made headlines by producing a prototype chip with transistors around 7 nanometers wide, about 1/10,000th of the width of a human hair and half of the size of even the smallest transistors on the market today.[3] An innovation like that has the ability to drive even smaller computing devices, but will it?
Not necessarily. PCs, after all, can only get so small before they become impractical for daily use. This reality has fueled the latest push for larger smartphones, especially as consumers increasingly rely on their phones for a range of uses—surfing the Web, reading email, watching videos, and, in particular, working on involved business tasks.
In the coming years, it’s reasonable to anticipate small-form factors will add powerful capabilities to spur enhanced business productivity, such as:
  • Exposing the files on the device directly to the user with a full-featured operating system and not just a mobile OS
  • Allowing for keyboard and mouse input for fast, accurate typing and manipulation of data
  • Showing more data at the same time by powering a larger monitor or display surface
  • Running key business software and even processor-intensive programs
  • An ongoing push for computing that will not rely on fingers or eyeballs

Small forms pack a big punch

With a growing number of U.S. adults clutching smartphones and tablets—68 percent and 45 percent, respectively—the added functionality and power weaving its way into today’s portable devices presents a compelling development that promises to help businesses thrive in a more on-the-go world.[4]
Take the HP Elite x3 as one hard-charging example that packs PC power and productivity, tablet portability, and smartphone connectivity into a single sleek device. When you need to work big, you can dock with screens and keyboards and leverage high-performance processors like the Qualcomm® Snapdragon 820 to drive productivity. [5] It is the one device that’s every device--small and sleek, yet powerful and practical, a device like the HP Elite x3 represents the future.


It’s a new era for PCs, one in which the race for the smallest PC has given way to a new pursuit: pushing productivity-driving capabilities into practical small-form factors. From smartphones to PCs-on-a-stick to discreet boxes like the Raspberry Pi that is no larger than a deck of cards, small-form factors offer businesses an opportunity to work more efficiently and economically anywhere and everywhere.
In the future, the only PC you’ll need will likely be the one inside your pocket.
[2] Based on HP's internal analysis as of 2/10/16 of vendors shipping >1 million units worldwide annually with clamshell design, Windows or OSX, measured at z-height.
[4] Pew Research Center, Technology Device Ownership: 2015
[5] Optional dock required and sold separately. Peripherals sold separately.

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