Do We Really want an Always Connected PC?

on February 14, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

I suppose, first, we should ask if we want a PC at all! Our recent US study run across 1262 consumers says we do. Less than one percent of the panelists said they have no intention to buy another PC or Mac. As a matter of fact, twenty-five percent of the panel is in the market to buy a new PC or Mac in the next twelve months.

What do We want When buying a Notebook?

Well, it depends who you are!

No matter which brand of PC we own, or how savvy of a user we are, when it comes to notebooks there is one thing we want out of the next computer we are buying: a longer battery life. Fifty-nine percent of our panelists picked battery life as a must-have feature in their next PC – one third more than for any other feature.

The other top two features are a little different depending on the camp you are in. While not strictly a feature, brand comes as the second most important consideration point for Mac buyers, which I am sure is not a surprise as with brand you buy into a whole entire ecosystem of both software and devices. Outside of Apple users, current PC owners only view brand as the sixth most important feature which causes some interesting challenges to the many brands in the Windows ecosystem trying to establish themselves in the high-end. Going back to hardware, what comes after battery very much depends on the kind of user you are. For early adopters a higher resolution display matters (34%) but for everybody else, including Mac owners, it is about more memory.

So where is connectivity in the list of features for our next notebook? Not much of a priority it seems.

Only 23% of our panel picked cellular connectivity as one of the top three features they want in their next notebook. Even more interesting, only 19% of early tech did so. I believe there are a couple of things at play here: either early tech adopters are quite happy to use their phone as a hotspot when they need connectivity, or they are actually just happy to use their phone for any of their on the go needs. It seems that, in this case, being tech-savvy is working against a feature that is being marketed as cutting edge. Where cellular connectivity resonates is with mainstream users (28% of which listed it in their top three features) and late adopters (20%). It seems to me that with these users, the marketing message around the PC being the same as your phone is working quite well.

The short-term opportunity, considering current owners in the market to upgrade their notebook within the next twelve month is not much more encouraging as only 25% of them picked cellular connectivity as a top three must have.

We also wanted to see if people who have a more flexible work set up in both hours and location might be better placed to appreciate such a feature but it does not seem that this is the case. Cellular was, in fact, only selected as a top three feature by 19% of panelists fitting that work style.

We say We want it but do We want to pay for It!

While the interest in cellular was not great, let’s dig a little deeper and understand what kind of premium potential buyers are willing to pay for the luxury of being connected any time any place.

We asked to imagine the following scenario: “you are purchasing your next notebook, and you have settled on a model when they tell you that it comes with a variant that offers 22 hours of continuous battery life and always-on internet connectivity. What premium (above the cost of the model without those features) would you be prepared to pay for it?”

Maybe conditioned by the current iPad offering that still puts a $100 premium on cellular or maybe because it is the sweet spot for this feature, 34% of the panelists would consider to pay up to $100 more. Seventeen percent would choose the cheaper model, and another 12% would expect those features to come as standard. This picture does not change much even among people who picked cellular connectivity among their top-three must-have features.

Where we find a considerable difference is in the willingness to pay a monthly fee for that cellular connectivity. Among consumers who are interested in cellular capability, only 19% said not to be interested in paying monthly, while among the overall panel, that number almost double to 39%.

When companies talk about PC connectivity and points to user behavior with smartphones as a parameter to determine demand and success potential, I think they are missing the mark. There are two major differences that play a big role in how consumers will interact with PC compared to their phones:

  •  Smartphones are truly mobile, and PCs are nomadic. This is a big difference as it implies I might be using my phone while I walk or I am standing in a crowded train/bus, but I would never do that with a PC. When I use a PC I am sitting somewhere and in more cases than not that place will have Wi-Fi. This is certainly true in the US, but less so in Europe and Asia, which is why those markets offer better opportunities for cellular enabled PCs.
  • The other factor that I think is not considered enough is the much wider application pool we have to choose from on our smartphones compared to our PCs. On the smartphone it is not just about email and video, it is about social media, news, books, chat, gaming, and the list goes on. So in a way, there are more things I can do with my smartphones that I might want to do while on the go than I will ever be able to do on my PC. Sometimes having a larger screen is a disadvantage, not just in case of portability but privacy too.

Does Always-Connected Simply mean Always-on?

Maybe when we think of connectivity, we think more about power than cellular. From the crave for longer battery life transpiring from our data it sure seems that way. That is the feature we all agree on we want in our future notebook. Our panelists would even consider buying a PC with a processor they were not familiar with as long as it delivered on battery. 29% saying they would do so for a notebook delivering 14 and 16 hours, another 17% wanting 16 to 18 hours and another 17% wanting 18 to 20 hours. Early adopters are even more demanding with 35% wanting between 14 and 16 hours before they consider a processor brand they are not familiar with.

This is where the short term opportunity for Qualcomm and Microsoft and their always-connected PC really is.  Among the panelists looking to upgrade in the next 12 months, a whopping 67% would consider a PC with an unfamiliar brand if it delivered between 14 and 20 hours of battery.