Monday, March 31, 2008

Apple's New Macbook Is Blah

MacBook and MacBook Pro are new and improved, but not by much.
What's the point?
Why bring out an upgrade if the difference is minimal?

CNET reports:

The updated models come with new Intel processors, larger hard disks, more main memory, and more graphics memory.

The new Penryn processor was expected to improve battery life, but I noticed something when I compared the specs for the old MacBook Pro to those of the new model. The new machine's stated battery life has dropped from six hours to just five. However, Apple now refers to five hours of "wireless productivity," whereas the old machine didn't use that qualifier. This suggests to me that Apple is now rating battery life with wireless networking enabled, and may have been doing the measurements with Wi-Fi off on the older machines. If that's what happened, Apple should explain it; without the explanation, the apparent drop in battery life is disappointing.

Well, these machines are just a midlife kicker. The real advance will show up later this year when Apple ships machines based on Intel's forthcoming Montevina platform, which includes the same Penryn processors but introduces a new family of chipsets code-named Cantiga.

Apple will presumably add other new features along with Montevina. I have no idea what Apple is working on, but we can look at other PC notebooks on the market today to see what technology Apple might consider adopting:

  • Extreme Edition processors
  • Support for more than 4GB of DRAM--Mac OS X "Leopard" is a full 64-bit OS and 4GB isn't really enough any more, especially if you use a virtualization environment such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion to run Windows apps within Mac OS X
  • Integrated WWAN--I use an Option ExpressCard 3G adapter for the AT&T network, but I'd rather have this function built in to free up the slot
  • Blu-ray optical drives--I expected to see this feature last year!
  • A secondary solid-state hard disk--I suggested this feature in a blog post last June, and now Sony has it in its Vaio TZ92 notebook
  • Intel HD audio
  • Nvidia's GeForce 8800M GTS and GTX graphics chips
  • Hybrid graphics--the ability to use a discrete graphics chip for high performance or the simpler graphics engine in the chipset for longer battery life; Sony offers this feature too
  • A fingerprint reader--Apple's systems are already more secure than most Windows machines, but a fingerprint reader would be a useful complement to existing security measures
  • Tablet mode--maybe not on all machines, but it'd sure be nice to see a tablet-capable MacBook

Apple has often been ahead of the competition. Earlier PowerBook and MacBook models were among the first notebooks to introduce super-thin cases, Gigabit Ethernet, motion sensors, LED backlights, DVI video outputs, FireWire, and other advanced features. Perhaps Apple is looking well beyond the features I've listed here, some of which have become almost routine in Windows notebooks.

Of course, even without these improvements, existing MacBook and MacBook Pro machines are still among the sleekest, fastest, and most capable notebook PCs on the market. But no tech company can afford to stand still, not even Apple.

And I need a reason to replace my own MacBook Pro. It's almost a year and a half old, and I'm getting itchy. C'mon, Apple, surprise me!

Computer Notebook Owners Don't Want Windows

Preston Gralla writes that while Microsoft owns the PC market, it's hold is loosening on computer notebooks.

Most of them are Linux-based or Macs.
At the price-comparison site PriceGrabber, only five of top 15 most popular laptops are Windows-based. The top seller is a Linux-based Asus Eee PC. In fact, three versions of that Linux notebook are in the top 15 sellers. And in the top 15 sellers there are a total of seven --- yes, that's right seven -- different sizes and configurations of MacBooks. HP, Toshiba, and Sony are the only manufacturers of Windows-based laptops in the top 15.

This isn't only happening on just PriceGrabber. Over on Amazon, things are even worse for Windows laptops. The nine top best-selling laptops are either Asus Eee PC Notebooks running Linux or Macbooks. Of the top 15, only three are Windows-based, made by Toshib and HP.

Now, keep in mind that these numbers are quite skewed. Online retailers don't take into account direct sales like Dell, or corporate sales --- and those numbers are quite large. There's no doubt that when those numbers are taken into account, Windows-based laptops far outsell Linux and Mac machines.

Still, these numbers should scare Microsoft. It shows that Web-savvy consumers are turning away from Windows-based laptops. They tend to be influencers, so where they go, others will most likely follow.

You can make the argument that this trend has nothing to do with Microsoft's actions. Above all, these laptop buyers seem to be making their choices based on price, size, and overall design. Microsoft doesn't make the hardware, so you can argue that Microsoft isn't to blame for design, size, and price.

You certainly can make that argument, but you'd be wrong. Take a look at the buyers that Microsoft is losing. The Asus and MacBooks represent two different types. The Asus laptops appeal to those who want very light laptops, as well as bargain hunters and techies. Linux can run quite well without high-end hardware, so very light, inexpensive laptops can be built around it. In addition, manufacturers don't have to pay Microsoft for Windows, keeping the laptops cheap.

MacBooks represent a different end of the spectrum. They certainly aren't cheap, and generally cost more than their Windows-based counterparts. But they are beautifully designed, and because both OS and hardware come from the same vendor, don't have the same kind of hardware woes that affect Windows-based laptops.

For both types of buyers, Windows is at least part of the reason why buyers are flocking to Asus and the MacBook. Vista is a hardware hog, and so you simply can't design a workable, inexpensive, ultralight laptop that runs it. It requires higher-end processors and graphics cards, and a relatively capacious hard disk. So for those who want laptops that are both light and cheap, the Asus is the only way to go.

Those who are willing to pay, on the other hand, choose MacBooks because they feel Mac OS X is superior to Vista. Once again, then, Windows is to blame.

Microsoft can't compete on the low-and-cheap end because Windows has too many heavy requirements for it to be able to run on cheap, light hardware. It can certainly run on light hardware, but you have to pay through the nose for light. And it can run on cheap hardware as well, but then you'll be lugging around a laptop with too much weight.

Two PC Notebooks Yet To Be Hacked

From, a report on a race to hack various computer notebooks:
The defenses of MacBook Air were hacked within moments in a recent security expo contest, reports say. During the CanSecWest conference's "PWN 2 OWN" competition, participants were expected to hack into one of three notebooks, and read the contents of a file using only an original zero-day attack. An award of $10,000 plus an Air is said to have gone to Charlie Miller, who broke into the computer within two minutes. This was accomplished by redirecting a web browser to a site with exploit code by Miller.

Under the terms of the competition, Miller cannot talk about the details of his exploit until the contest's sponsor notifies Apple, giving it a chance to rectify the problem. It is believed however that since the rules of the competition dictate relying on pre-installed software, the hack was directed through Apple's Safari software.

The speed of the hack is considered especially impressive given that last year, a break-in for the MacBook Pro required nine hours. At the end of Thursday's competition timeframe, two PC notebooks -- a Sony Vaio and Fujitsu U810 -- had yet to be cracked, according to observers.

How To Go Wireless

I'd like to go wireless but I don't know how.
I don't even have a laptop.
I finally got a cell phone in 1999 but only because of a woman.
There was a chick I was nuts about.
We were both in vice. It seemed so right.
We met at a Conservative synagogue on a Friday night.
We bonded over a movie set in the Catskills in 1969 - Walk on the Moon.
Anyway, that was the night I fell for her.
It was a beautiful movie and she's a beautiful woman.
We walked out in to the parking lot and I confessed my sins.
She accepted me.
It was a beautiful thing.
We missed each other coming and going.
One day she left a message on my home machine asking me to a concert that night.
I didn't have a cell phone and I didn't check my messages. So I missed that opportunity and I never got to go out with her again.
I was so ticked off I went and got a cell phone.
I've hardly used it over the past nine years. I only turn it on once or twice a week (unless there's something special).
The first mass wave of wireless connectivity was the cell phone.
Then it was the computer notebook.
Titus Hoskins writes July 1, 2005:

Wireless notebooks uses three major wireless data standards in order to transfer data. The one that is probably most common is 802.11b, also called Wi-Fi which stands for Wireless Fidelity.

Wi-Fi or 802.11b transfers data wirelessly at a maximum rate of 11Mbps for up to 150 feet. It uses the 2.4GHz radio spectrum and although it says 11Mbps, you will probably only get around 4-6Mbps in actual use. But this is enough bandwidth for high speed Internet, gaming and most file transfers.

The 802.11a is another standard that uses the 5GHz radio spectrum, so it has 8 channels available instead of only 3 that’s available with 802.11b. The ‘a’ version also permits a larger transfer, at a maximum of 54Mbps.

The other standard, 802.11g, is a hybrid of ‘A’ and ‘B’ - its also capable of 54Mbps but it uses the 2.4 GHz spectrum and is compatible with 802.11b devices. Some notebooks like the Fujitsu LifeBook N6010, have a tri-mode 802.11a/b/g wireless system that uses all three forms!

The next technology in Wireless Communication is 3G EV-DO! Sounds like one of those funny robots from Starwars - but it stands for evolution-data optimized. This new technology will change how we view and use the world wide web.

Verizon Wireless 3G EV-DO began commercial operations in Oct. of 2003 and is now expanding to over 125 million US consumers by the end of 2005. With download speeds of 400 to 700 kbps and bursts up to 2 Mbps, 3G has really given us wireless Internet this time. It has or will turn the Internet into a truly wireless system that’s devoid of any cables or lines. It will be everywhere - no space within our biosphere will be without the Internet very soon.

Of course, it should be kept in mind, that any group of computers can be made wireless by using a wireless router and a wireless network adaptor for each computer. Also, many notebooks and computers come with a Bluetooth module, which allows for wireless communication between any sort of electronic devices - from cell phones to computer to stereos to headphones.

However, if you’re setting up a wireless network or if you’re using your wireless notebook or laptop at hotels and airports - security will be a concern. Anyone, within distance possessing the right equipment and a little ingenuity may get access to this wireless system. For major corporations or the lowly homeowner; safeguards need to be taken to prevent unwanted visitors from interrupting your peaceful wireless universe.

There are usually two basic methods of securing wireless networks, WEP and MAC address filtering. The MAC (Media Access Control) is the physical address or unique hardware identifier given to each device in the network. Then you manually enter a list of addresses that can use or access your wireless network.

The other filtering process is more secure, WEP or Wireless Encryption Protocol requires a shared key between the users and then using this key to encrypt and de-encrypt data that’s transmitted between your network users.

Many major hotel chains and other businesses are now offering ‘Wi-Fi’ services as an added convenience to their patrons. These ‘hot spots’ are popping up everywhere, even at some gas stations. You may need to sign in or get a password or key to access these services.

But like your cell phone conversations, any radio transfer or transmission will not be as secure as a wired connection. Keep this in mind if privacy is a major concern for you. But don’t let it stop you from enjoying the convenience, portability and practicality of your wireless notebook or laptop.

Computer Notebooks Without internet access

What's the point?
Beats me.
Peru is experimenting.
Christopher Dawson writes:

I think the answer to this is “Yes” for a variety of reasons but I’d like to get some feedback from you. Peru is beginning to roll out 400,000 OLPC XO laptops this week to villages throughout the country, according to Technology Review.

As the article points out, though, 90% of the villages to which the XOs are being deployed don’t have Internet access.

Peru’s effort, if successful, would be a model for other nations. In the training now under way, teachers must become versed not only in how to operate and maintain the laptops, but also in how to do their jobs within a newly laptop-centric educational model. The laptops will contain some 115 books, including textbooks, novels, and poetry, as well as art and music programs, cameras, and other goodies.

To my mind, the textbooks alone are worth the cost (assuming, as I have always maintained before, that basic needs are already being met in the villages) if they meet the curricular needs of the teachers and students. However, a key element of a computer’s utility in 2008 is Internet access. How do you feel? To be truly effective and provide the most benefit to students, should communications infrastructure be in place before laptops like the XO and Classmate are rolled out?

Apple Going Green

ZDNET reports on Apple climbing in the environment rankings.

Front man Steve Jobs announced the MacBook Air at Macworld Expo in January 2008. He pushed its environmental benefits including being completely mercury and arsenic free, exceeding European Standards.

In May 2007 Apple also promised to completely eliminate the use of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) in the printed wiring on motherboards, and arsenic in the glass of all flat-panel displays by the end of 2008.

Sony was the first to go BFR and PVC-free last November with their Vaio notebook, according to Greenpeace.

While the MacBook Air has less PVC and BFRs than other Mac computers, it is not entirely free of them. Had it been it would have made Apple an ecological leader.

A recent update to Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics shows that Apple is greener than Microsoft and that Nintendo is the worst eco-offender. The Guide ranks top market leaders of the mobile phone, computer, TV and games console markets according to their policies and practices on toxic chemicals and takeback.

Dell Focusing On Computer Notebooks

Larry Dignan is the Editor of ZDNet.

He writes about the latest news from Dell.

The company plans to save $3 billion with a massive number of layoffs (almost 9,000 people).

It's going to start focusing on computer notebooks and the like.
In fiscal 2009, Dell said it will focus on its consumer, enterprise, notebook, small and medium sized business and emerging market businesses. Dell, which largely reiterated prior forecasts, will also close its desktop manufacturing plant in Austin, Texas.

In a blog post, Lynn Tyson, VP of investor relations at Dell, said:

Over the last three years, driven by the massive shift in customer preference for notebooks - especially among consumers, industry forecasts for the rate of growth of desktops have declined from 10.8 percent to 3.6 percent. And the desktop to notebook mix in the U.S. has declined from a 70/30 split in 2005 in favor of desktops to a 50/50 split today. Our fiscal fourth quarter of last year reflects this change as we grew notebook units year over year by 37 percent and desktops by 10 percent.

Another interesting thread: Dell plans on “undertaking a strategic assessment” of its Dell Financial Services (DFS) unit, which provides credit to consumers and small businesses. The review may also include commercial leasing. Amid the credit crunch, many companies that have dabbled in offering credit to consumers are evaluating whether they want the risk on their books.

Dell disputed that its review has anything to do with the credit crunch. However, it’s a little hard not to connect those two events. Tyson said:

First, our assessment of our DFS business is unrelated to what is going on right now in the credit markets - we completed the acquisition and so the natural next step is to pursue our strategy, simple as that. Many companies - GE and Target - to cite recent examples - often assess the ownership structure of their financing companies. In our case we are primarily evaluating three key things: (1) can DFS provide even better and most robust product offerings to our customers, (2) can we accelerate the investments we are making in DFS and, (3) are there more efficient ways to fund DFS. Our assessment may result in no change, or a sale to or partnership with a fully dedicated financing company.

Second, relative to our consumer financing receivables - less than 20 percent of our net customer receivables - or $1.6 billion - were to subprime customers. This percentage is similar to what it was in our fiscal third quarter. Based on our assessment of these customers financing receivables and the associated risks, we believe we are adequately reserved.

Separately, Dell filed its annual report. Among the notable excerpts:

  • We expect that the competitive pricing environment will continue to be challenging. However, we believe that the strength of our evolving business strategy and indirect distribution channels, as well as our strong liquidity position, makes us well positioned to continue profitable growth over the long term in any business climate. For consumers, we recognize the increasing importance of product “ID”, which is the appearance, ease of use, and ability to interact with peripheral products like cameras and MP3 players, and we are focusing more resources to improve in this area.
  • As of February 1, 2008, we held a worldwide portfolio of 1,954 patents and had an additional 2,196 patent applications pending.
  • We have developed and started implementing a plan to combine the consumer business of both EMEA and APJ with the U.S. Consumer business and re-align our management and financial reporting structure. We will begin reporting worldwide Consumer once we complete the global consolidation of this business, which we expect to be the first quarter of Fiscal 2009. The changes have had no impact on our operating segment structure to date. This segment will include worldwide sales to individual consumers and select retailers.

Flextronics Making More Computer Notebooks

Here's a report from Sweden:
The idea of increasing the notebook production capacity is due to the acquisition of the notebook unit of Arima Computer.

The Arima plant in Wujiang, China has only shipped 800,000 notebooks in 2007, although the actual capacity lies at around four million per year. This can be further expanded to approximately 10-12 million notebooks, provided that the order inflow will also expand.

Computer Notebooks Selling Big In Europe reports that Central and Eastern Europe are buying massive amounts of computer notebooks as prices erode and first time buyers go straight for a mobile platform.

CEE shipments were up 26.7% in 2007, representing $8.3B in sales, according to IDC.
Though the market is almost four times less than the $31.3B Western European notebook market, CEE is seeing sustainable faster growth, said Stefania Lorenz, research director at IDC who looks at the region. This year, she expects a 20% increase in shipments for CEE.

Price will remain a key traffic and volume generator, particularly in retail, with large notebook promotion deals sold at spot prices. Last year, the low price point for a notebook PC in CEE, on average, was $1100, Lorenz said. This year, she expects it to be $1000.

Ultra-lowcost notebooks are entering Europe and attracting service providers hunting for new revenue streams. Germany's T-Mobile, for example, partnered with Asustek Computer of Taiwan to bundle broadband connectivity with its Eee PC, which debuted in 2007 for under 500 Euro ($765) and is now in a supply shortage.

This year, Europe will see the entry of the $300 (193 Euro) notebook PC for children. The laptop, developed by Intel initially for poor children, is a special basic machine for a specific segment. Nonetheless, it could increase downward pricing pressure on notebooks overall.

"It will revolutionize the notebook market but it is not a standard notebook as we know it," Lorenz said, adding that IDC is now assessing the potential market impact.

Notebook manufacturers in CEE include Dell Computer, which runs a $311M (200M Euro) factory in Lodz, Poland and Lenovo, which in January announced a $20M (13M Euro) plant in Lower Silesia, southwest Poland.

Related articles:

Intel cheap laptops expanding to Europe, US

Desktop, notebook PCs seek spotlight at CES

Dell set to create 12,000 jobs in Poland, say reports

Thailand Buying Computer Notebooks For MPs

Here's a report from Bangkok:

Democrat MP Apichart Sakdiset voiced suspicion about irregularities relating to a planned purchase of computer notebooks for distribution to 480 lawmakers.

"No one seems to know about the specifications and doubts linger about computer prices," he said in a query raised from the floor.

He said in a past procurement, the price tag went as high as Bt80,000 per notebook that quickly became obsolete despite a premium paid above the market price.

House Deputy Speaker Apiwan Wiriyachai ensured that he would closely monitor the procurement as he was in charge of information technology for the lower chamber.

"I have instructed relevant officials to buy computer notebooks under three guidelines - openended specifications, a just price and good quality," he said.

He said he expected the House to pay about Bt42,000 per notebook. - The Nation

Computer Notebooks Rise In Price 41% reports from SAN JOSE, Calif. that Notebook computer sales rose a whopping 41 percent in 2007 according to the latest figures from market watcher DisplaySearch.

Why? How? Who's number one? Number two?
Thanks to two major acquisitions, Taiwan's Acer surpassed Dell Computer as the number two supplier of notebooks, second to top-ranked Hewlett-Packard Co.

"A few brands managed to surpass the notebook market's amazing unit growth, but most brands had difficulty achieving that level," said John Jacobs, director of notebook research at DisplaySearch.

"While Acer's brand outpaced the market, when their Gateway and Packard Bell acquisitions are factored into the equation, the results are less positive, indicating that their acquisitions were on a downward trend," he added.

Notebook sales grew at a more stately 14 percent quarterly rate in the last three months of 2007 to 33 million units. DisplaySearch projects notebook PC shipments to rise to 135 million units in 2008.

HP remained top in notebook PC sales for the sixth consecutive quarter, maintaining more than a two million-unit lead over Dell, now ranked third. DisplaySearch said HP has about 20 percent of the total market.

One bright spot for Dell is that it managed to maintain its notebook market share lead in North America, holding off HP by just over 3 percent. But overall, Acer has made a fast advance in notebooks.

At the end of 2006, Dell's notebook shipments exceeded Acer by more than a million units. At the end of 2007 the gap dropped to less than 100,000 units, and when Acer's shipments are added to those of its acquisitions--Gateway and Packard Bell--Acer passed Dell by more than 600,000 units in 2007.

The most popular notebook flat-panel size and resolution was 15.4 inches and 1280 - 800 pixels in the third quarter, the most recent period for which DisplaySearch has figures. The screen type accounted for half of all notebooks shipped in that quarter.

Screens measuring 14.1 inches with a 1280 - 800 resolution followed a distant second at 23 percent of all units shipped in the quarter.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Case For Bigger Monitors

The Wall Street Journal follows up on a March 10 report on a recent study that says employees are more productive with bigger monitors.

On March 19, the WSJ says:

Last week, we wrote about a new study by researchers at the University of Utah that found people who used big computer screens – or multiple ones – completed a series of computer tasks significantly faster than people using smaller screens. (Some people mistook this for a 2003 study by the same researchers; this was an updated one.) The study was sponsored by a company that makes computer monitors, so readers had a right to be skeptical. Instead, reader after reader posted about how much more productive having a bigger monitor made them.

This comment was fairly typical:

    “I actually had trouble convincing users that two monitors would make their lives easier. I found that if I promised to install a second monitor and then to come back that same afternoon and remove it if they didn’t like it I could get them to at least try a two monitor solution. I never once took the second monitor off anyone’s system. Most often, as soon as I stuck my head in the user’s office door they would threaten to kill me if I even touched their new monitor.”

There were a few naysayers. One reader asked if anyone has heard of “Alt-Tab,” the keystrokes that let people who use Microsoft’s Windows operating system toggle between two applications. Others question whether businesses would be willing to spend the money to outfit employees with an extra monitor. “If only we could afford the luxury of large monitors where I work!” one reader wrote. “Unfortunately our Director of IT is just too tight for that!” And some thought that a big monitor was nice, but pretty meaningless if it wasn’t high resolution as well.

But overall, about 80% of the comments were from people bragging about their increased productivity. (So feel free to send the thread to your boss.)

One information-technology pro pointed out the hidden value of bigger screens:

    1. People can’t see me at my desk
    2. I get to be more productive
    3. A.D.D. folks understand `out of sight, out of mind’
    4. People can’t see me at my desk
    5. One screen monitors the network full time
    6. Different browsers at the same time
    7. People can’t see me at my desk

What Are The Advantages To Bigger Monitors?

Here are some cool comments to a recent WSJ article (the Wall Street Journal boasts Kara Swisher and Mossberg and great technology coverage):
In our company, we have about 30 employees running OS 9 and using 15″ monitors. I wonder how our productivity would rise if we would actually invest some dollars in equipment, not just grasping at bloated profits?

What percentage of businesses do you think can afford new equipment like 24″ monitors? I know in my industry (newspaper), they are doing everything they can to continue the unrealistic profit margins. Even at the expense of happy employees.
Comment by Bryan - March 10, 2008 at 11:09 am

Well, I’ve just bought two HD NEC monitors for a client’s editing system (I DON’T work for NEC) and before I delivered the system, I used it for less creative work with spreadhseets and email and some page-layout. It was another world. I had 3800 pixels to play with (horizontally). I spent less time have to work out which window to open and organise my mental processes to jump between things because most of what I needed was in front of my eyes at all times.

But I wouldn’t just say size is the thing - quality too. When you’re staring at something all day, the sharper, cleaner and more vibrant it is, the less your head is going to start pounding and the more your eyes will be functioning without strain.

Oh, and you might have a more relaxed evening too.
Comment by Ben Wharton - March 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm

This should really seem to be a no-brainer. We coders have known forever that dual-head is more than a marginal increase in productivity. Imagine … code spec and CM tool on one screen, IDE on the other. It’s a marvelous arrangement. Has been for years.
Comment by Miranda - March 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm

The size of the monitor can of course be a factor, but isn’t the total number of pixels what counts (provided your eyesight can handle the resolution)? What where the pixel settings in this study? One more thing - having worked with both large hi-res and dual head setups for years, I can say that productivity increases over time. To utilize the setup properly you must get used to it. To me, soon 50, bigger screen with same number of pixels is very nice to save straining my eyes or using specs.
Comment by pixel geek - March 11, 2008 at 6:20 am

I suspect this is purely an example of the Hawthorne Effect (if you don’t know what that is, look it up, it’s a wonderful thing).
Comment by pmarlowe - March 11, 2008 at 6:34 am

This photo is the result of 20 hours worth of wiring and configuration. I used Widows Vista 64B, in a fairly typical self-built box (AMD/ Nvidia MOBO). I tried to put an ATI X1300 PCI video card in it but struggled for hours to get ATI and Nvidia to play nice, vista wasn’t helping much either.
It sure is sweet though:
Comment by Chris Leeds - March 11, 2008 at 8:34 am

wow, and i bet Sony will soon be releasing a study that says Bigger Plasma TVs improves the vision of those that watch t.v. Why would anyone care about the research on monitors completed by a firm that sells them? It is a sales gimic, used since there has been a slow down in tech dept. purcahases lately..

- Richard
Hedge Fund
Comment by Richard C. Wilson - March 11, 2008 at 9:34 am

Maybe it`s not how big a computerscreen, but how much of the rest of the world you can see…
Comment by Easily Destracted - March 11, 2008 at 10:03 am

Well after all you do have TWO eyes! :=)
Comment by wingnut - March 11, 2008 at 10:25 am

I think it all comes down to screen resolution.

If you have a 24″ with 1440×900 resolution then you are not getting any more desktop space than a 19″ with same res.

I guess this study assumed that people would use their monitors are their max res.

Comment by Vitaly - March 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

Comment by joeblow - March 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

I use an external monitor with my Inspiron 6000 laptop - by “extending” the desktop onto the second monitor, I’m able to use both the laptop’s original monitor and a 20-inch Dell LCD as two distinct parts of a single workspace. Having two monitors, as well as wireless keyboard/mouse combo is convenient.
Comment by Economist - March 11, 2008 at 11:52 am

You mean size does matter? Sorry, I was reading the Spitzer stories before this one.
Comment by Huh - March 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

I keep my desktop resolution at 800×600 — I don’t need to see more things, I need to see them bigger.
Comment by Noumenon - March 11, 2008 at 1:35 pm

24″ monitor resolution is 1920×1200. i like the one i have a lot.
Comment by M - March 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

for the guy using 800×600:

You can use a higher resoliton and increase the font and icon sizes on windows.
Comment by eric c - March 11, 2008 at 2:47 pm

What’s really annoying is that the IT people all have huge screens or two screens. And they set up all the applications.

In the trenches, we have one little screen and have to always be moving the windows around — because the apps are set up assuming the screen size the IT people use.

They also have printers with “Times New Roman Bold” font installed, so Word’s Font Substitution always shows us that it is replacing that font with itself.


Give IT the _least_ capable machines.

A rising technology tide lifts all the boats ONLY if the IT people are tied up to the dock using the shortest ropes.
Comment by argh - March 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Comment by JOE - March 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Your employer pays you $?? an hour to work. If it takes you 100 hours to do something and the can cut that down to 75 hours by getting you a 2nd monitor they just saved 25x$?? Assume $?? is $20 ($20 an hour = a $40k a year salary). That means for each 100 hour task the BUYER would save $500.

You can look at it another way, assume it was going to take you 10 days and that giving you a 2nd monitor shortened that to 7 days. Well, now they can have you work on something else for those 3 days. In the end it saves them money.

A 23 inch monitor is a whopping $240 a Costco. Most computers and notebooks will already run a second monitor so it’s unlikely they have to buy any more equipment and on top of that, even if they do a video card is like $60. So, for a total max investment of $300 they can get several hundred dollars of month of more work from their employees. It seems like a no brainer.

As for the research being sponsored by NEC, I can only assure you that most people I know, including myself, are VASTLY more productive on two monitors. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out all the reasons why that would be true.
Comment by greggman - March 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Are you referring to a 2003 study with this post? Where is the link to the survey you’re talking about?
Comment by TechMaven - March 11, 2008 at 5:07 pm

What is really funny is that this is the 2003 study, but it keeps on coming up all over the web. Every 4-5 months someone mentions it in either a blog or article.

I have been looking for a copy of the original study for a while, but nobody seems to know where it is
Comment by Denzel - March 11, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Totally. I chimed in on this topic and show how it has improved my life, beyond work.
Comment by Julia Roy - March 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I was the network hardware specialist for a fairly large government agency here in Atlanta.

I actually had trouble convincing users that two monitors would make their lives easier. The most common reason for not upgrading to two monitors was they didn’t want to lose the desk space the second monitor would require.

I told my people that they already had a mental model for using two monitors. I pointed out that they already knew how to read something off one piece of paper and then write on another piece of paper. Two monitors work the same way.

I found that if I promised to install a second monitor and then to come back that same afternoon and remove it if they didn’t like it I could get them to at least try a two monitor solution.

I always kept my promise to show up and check on how the work was going with two monitors instead of one butI never once took the second monitor off anyone’s system. Most often, as soon as I stuck my head in the user’s office door they would threatened to kill me if I even touched their new monitor.

Comment by Otpu - March 11, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Anybody that doesn’t have two monitors by now that sits at a computer all day works for a VERY CHEAP company and should not ever expect a decent raise or bonus if they won’t fork out an extra $300 for a decent monitor setup.
Comment by cybergal - March 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Smaller screen size = less productivity?
Comment by John - March 11, 2008 at 11:17 pm

If you’re an engineer at Google, you get a 30″ HP LCD. Or, you can opt for two 24″s. Employees in other departments get one 24″.
Comment by Googler - March 12, 2008 at 3:17 am

Wide vs Normal aspect ratio?
Comment by - March 12, 2008 at 4:44 am

On aspect ratio: “Knowledge workers” are probably better off with widescreen. On a 22″ widescreen at 1680×1050, two full pages of text fit readably side-by-side; for many tasks, additional horizontal space has more marginal benefit than additional vertical space.
Comment by Michael - March 12, 2008 at 8:06 am

Well…as they say…size matters :)
Comment by jackdog - March 12, 2008 at 9:38 am

Nearly everyone has dual monitors where I work, and it’s definitely made a difference, particularly amongst the developers. One monitor for code and debugging, one monitor for firefox or safari.
Comment by Pete Clark - March 12, 2008 at 10:09 am

Size isn’t the best measure, Resolution is. A 26″ screen typically has the same resolution as 24″ so the only benefit of a 26″ would be if you have poor eye sight. I run two 24″ monitors, one in landscape and the other in portrait so I get the best of both worlds. It really does make a big difference.
Comment by Mike - March 12, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Been using dual monitors (20″) for several years. The price for digital has been coming down to where two digitals in today’s money costs less than what we once paid for a Princeton CRT with a better dollar.

Work as a controller and I would buy my own if the company didn’t. Spreadsheet up on one, accounting package on the other - only way to work. Two spreadsheets and drag and drop - I’m surprised that productivity gains are as low as they say.

FWIW, the tech speechifier that spoke at our last conference claimed that gains increased through adding three, but you started to lose time when you started knocking them off your desk (four and more). He was serious about the first comment, maybe about the second…
Comment by Just agreeing - March 12, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Are you kidding…I surf WAY more porn with a bigger monitor
Comment by Dave in wilmington - March 13, 2008 at 10:48 am

These results are bunk.

I wonder if the test subjects know about “alt-tab”?

this is an issue of focus switching, and how easily you can do it.
Comment by jason doyle - March 13, 2008 at 11:34 am

I had my 42″ monitor fall on me at work and now my productivity is at zero. :(
Comment by Peter - March 13, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Personally, I find two 4:3 monitors better than one large widescreen monitor. I almost always maximize my windows which makes 2 screens better.

If you work with one large widescreen monitor, you are constantly resizing things which slows you down.

but yeah, I agree with the study… more real estate is better. Some people are initially turned off by 2 monitors because its a bit confusing at first but I suggest pushing through. You will get a lot more work done and you will get promoted!
Comment by Ben - March 13, 2008 at 12:13 pm

to argh and his complaints about IT getting all the goodies. Of course we do; it’s part of our compensation package for doing grunt work in caves. Oh, and the 3 hour day and 4 day work week ain’t bad either…. Supply and demand; ask Bill Gates.
Comment by just another lazy MBA - March 13, 2008 at 12:40 pm

A colleague of mine got himself a 40 inch monitor recently; since then his productivity has increased significantly. If progress continues we think it will be worth investing in one of the new 60 inch monitors.
Comment by Stibb - March 13, 2008 at 1:01 pm

I wish I had a big monitor :-(
Comment by JD - March 13, 2008 at 1:04 pm

In fact i wish i had a computer.
Comment by JD - March 13, 2008 at 1:05 pm

If only we could afford the luxury of large monitors all round where I work! unfortunately our Director of CIT is just too tight for that!
Comment by Stevo - March 13, 2008 at 1:09 pm

I’m a developer. I use 3 monitors and believe there is value in both the number and size of them. I typically have SQL Manager open on left screen, Visual Studio on center 22″, and the site in a browser on the 19″ on the right. I keep the 19″ set to 1280×1024 to simulate the typical users configuration, and check every new page there. It’s a wonderful thing, and I can’t imagine ever doing it without it! I still get slowed down switching occasionally to see my email, or jump to a forum to look something up…so I’m considering a fourth monitor…Peter, if you don’t need that 42″, and if it’s still working, let me know…
Comment by CEM - March 13, 2008 at 1:11 pm

I work for a company that employs 83,000 worldwide, and their policy since I started here last year is, if you have a laptop, you don’t need a monitor. I’ve had nothing less than a 21″ monitor for the past 7 years! Watching people code and administer web sites and databases on their tiny 1024×780 screens is maddening. I brought in an extra flat panel from home. This is ridiculous.
Comment by Fred - March 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

At work I have a 19″ 4:3 Dell monitor - it’s a pretty nice, bright clear etc. At home I have a 24″ Dell widescreen - it is truly amazing - I can have two word or deltaview documents side by side, and for some tasks that makes life so much better. I’ve used multi-monitor setups a few times, but really much prefer one big screen.
Comment by Mike - March 13, 2008 at 2:59 pm

I run 4 19″ monitors on 1 system and love it. I have mail in one window, web another center for whatever task I am on at that time and the 4th is kind of a catch all.

at home however I prefer just 1 wide screen. Multi monitors just didnt work well there.
Comment by Gary - March 13, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I think I found the original study…
Comment by Jon Eric - March 13, 2008 at 4:39 pm

For the people who don’t believe this, or say the study is biased, please read Edward Tufte’s “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”
Comment by someuideveloper - March 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

I switched form a 12″ mac laptop to a 24″mac desktop plus spaces. wow. a world of difference. i can not see my graphic files at the same time, as well as having email plus SOHO plus Daylite open at the same window!

i totally believe the study.
Comment by Jake - March 13, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Bigger screen better.
See longer unix command like I can. See more large log file I can. Scroll too much I dont have to.
Comment by somejavaunixdeveloper - March 13, 2008 at 9:08 pm

I am a retired mainframe programmer. I use three 21 inch CRT monitors and would not consider any less. When I help people with their computers, it is hard to only have a single screen.

I can have my HTML editor on one screen and IE with the site on another. Maybe a help file (or something) onthe 3rd monitor.
Comment by Autocoder - March 13, 2008 at 9:39 pm

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Comment by Autocoder - March 13, 2008 at 9:40 pm

The benefits to multiple monitors increase exponentially with the number of pc’s one uses.

1. people can’t see me at my desk
2. I get to be more productive
3. A.D.D. folks understand `out of sight, out of mind’
4. people can’t see me at my desk
5. one screen monitors the network full time
6. different browsers at the same time
7. people can’t see me at my desk

P.S. argh: we work because you’re generally incapable of it.
Comment by leftystrat - March 13, 2008 at 10:11 pm

What were the results of the study about 7″ screens?
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Comment by flash - March 14, 2008 at 1:40 am

larger screen = more windows = too much objetives in the same time = less interest in what we do = less productivity.
People who use larger screen have to apply GTD !!!
Comment by jipi - March 14, 2008 at 3:45 am

Richard, since you’ve never done any coding on a dual screen setup… you opinion doesn’t match others’s experiences.

Moving your eyes is faster then hitting ALT-TAB and waiting for the OS to redraw the scren. You can have your code on the monitor and the app running on the other. And when the app isn’t running, email, or help/man pages.
Comment by Michaelangelo - March 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm

For any sort of computer work a larger screen makes a huge difference.

In my last job search (10 years ago, IT field), screen size was one of several “environmental” factors I used to evaluate a potential employer. If an employer supplied decent monitors and private office space instead of cubes, I considered that as an indication that they treated their employees well. Who wants to work for a company that doesn’t want to supply you the tools to succeed? And, in fact, considering these factors did help me make a good choice, since I’m still here.
Comment by ViennaDad - March 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm

I upgraded to a 30″ in the office about a year ago. My productivity is through the roof. For one, I enjoy sitting at my desk more and am working longer hours. But I’m also able to complete things faster… alt tab is well and good when you need to flip between programs, but what if you need to see several open documents at once?

Larger screen does not equal less interest in what we do. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I love what I do. If a bigger monitor makes YOU less interested in what you do, perhaps your job sucks.
Comment by CreativeType - March 14, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Clearly this depends on your tasks. I do both marketing communications writing and market research reports; when I work from home, I have both a 20″ iMac and a 13″ Vaio to choose from. Doing the market research reports on the Vaio is torture, since it involves lots of cutting and pasting from Excel, writing analysis based on data from the charts and other documents like PDFd annual reports, and writing report and chapter summaries where it’s helpful to be able to scroll through the main body of the report while typing.

But when I’m drafting a brochure, I’m pretty much staring at a blank screen, and maybe a few print-outs of product information for reference. At that point, the bigger screen almost becomes a hindrance because it tempts me to cruise over to eBay or sites like these rather than get my work done!
Comment by e c - March 14, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Just a blog-back, about tuning bandwidth on the wetware bus.
Comment by Bandwidth Tuning - March 15, 2008 at 2:19 pm

If this is true, then one monitor that was the size of the planet would mean that one person could do everything and be the most productive person on Earth.
Comment by Smart - March 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm

I have moved from 1024×768 pixels to 1680×1050…. way better cos i can have two word docs open at once without changing….

but unless u do that all day, there isn’t much productivity boost
Comment by Anonymous - March 18, 2008 at 12:27 am

I use 4 dell monitors in a 2×2 setup at home, and its great. At work I have 4 that are all side-by-side and it isn’t as good as 2×2, but I can tell that I’m getting more done now than I was with the original setup of two monitors.
Comment by Brian - March 19, 2008 at 12:28 am

The reason why you see a limit at 24 to 26″ monitors is because the standard native resolution is 1920×1200.

With that said, I just moved from 1024×768 to 1920×1200 - 17″ to 24″ and it is amazing how much I can see on a spreadsheet now.
Comment by Jhonka - March 19, 2008 at 2:32 am

If any significant portion of the work involves paying a human to copy information between spreadsheets, the better solution would be to invest in some automation and systems design so that humans don’t have to do such mundane work as a routine.

I work at a technology company and if the software we sell required a customer to manually move information around we would get raked over the coals. But all our internal systems at their heart, involve someone cutting, pasting clicking numbers through 20 different spreadsheets.
Comment by Stuart - March 20, 2008 at 2:05 am

I always connect my laptop to a 20″ screen (1680×1050), which greatly improves my productivity, but I think I could do even better with 1920×1200. A 30″ screen is probably overkill for me at this point, though.
Comment by Henning - March 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Bigger Monitors Equal Bigger Productivity

The WSJ says that researchers at the University of Utah looked into how fast people did various jobs like editing a document and copying numbers while using different computers: one with an 18-inch monitor, one with a 24-inch monitor and with two 20-inch monitors. Their finding: People using the 24-inch screen completed the tasks 52% faster than people who used the 18-inch monitor; people who used the two 20-inch monitors were 44% faster than those with the 18-inch ones. There is an upper limit, however: Productivity dropped off again when people used a 26-inch screen. (The order of the tasks and the order of computer configurations were assigned randomly.)

The study concluded that someone using a larger monitor could save 2.5 hours a day. But James Anderson, the professor in charge of the study, tells the Business Technology Blog to take that result with a grain of salt: It assumes that someone will work non-stop for eight hours, which no one will, and that the tasks they perform will all benefit from a larger screen, which isn’t always the case. But things like moving data between files are ideally suited to bigger or multiple screens. Anderson, who uses a computer with two 20-inch screens and one 24-inch one, recommends that businesses take the time to match employees with the proper size screen based on job requirements.

A caveat: The study was funded by NEC, which makes computer monitors. But Anderson says that it was vetted by the University’s research board. Also, he doesn’t care who businesses buy their monitors from – he just wants businesses to realize that the right monitor can make someone more productive. And if a tech department has to buy 500 of the same size in order to get a bulk discount? Buy the biggest ones you can, Anderson tells us. “Size matters,” he adds.

What Is Computer Hardware?

As opposed to software?

Wikipedia says:

Computer hardware is the physical part of a computer, including the digital circuitry, as distinguished from the computer software that executes within the hardware. The hardware of a computer is infrequently changed, in comparison with software and hardware data, which are "soft" in the sense that they are readily created, modified or erased on the computer. Firmware is a special type of software that rarely, if ever, needs to be changed and so is stored on hardware devices such as read-only memory (ROM) where it is not readily changed (and is, therefore, "firm" rather than just "soft").

Most computer hardware is not seen by normal users. It is in embedded systems in automobiles, microwave ovens, electrocardiograph machines, compact disc players, and other devices. Personal computers, the computer hardware familiar to most people, form only a small minority of computers (about 0.2% of all new computers produced in 2003). See Market statistics.