• Rise of the Machines. 2015

Rise of the Machines: European research into mobile workforce preferences

Hybrids threaten Business laptops dominance in Europe

Despite the promise of tablets to revolutionise mobile working, our latest research shows that the laptop remains the preferred choice for the European mobile workforce. The tablet has no doubt taken a significant market share and there are job roles where its form
factor is ideal. 

But the additional surprise from the research was the confidence of the workforce in the potential for convertible and detachable hybrid devices to improve productivity over the coming years.

For a group of devices that has only recently been introduced to the market and with the variety of options emerging, it is interesting to see that hybrids have already captured the imagination.

The appeal of offering the best of both the tablet and laptop worlds is an obvious attraction. However, manufacturers must be aware that the underlying reasons that employers and the workforce alike see the hybrid playing a key role in the future is the promise of additional benefits. These benefits, such as improved functionality, battery life, a keyboard and better connectivity to name just a few, are the real desires from mobile workers that we should pick up on to create the devices of the future.

As manufacturers of the world’s leading rugged mobile PCs, Panasonic will use this insight to continue to pioneer and develop a range of laptop, tablet and hybrid devices to suit the very different needs of the mobile worker. If tailored to meet the needs of Europe’s mobile workforces, this rise of the machines can only help to improve productivity for our businesses and make the lives of our mobile workers easier.

Jan Kaempfer
General Manager for Marketing for Panasonic Computer Product Solutions


The research, commissioned by Panasonic and undertaken by Market Dynamics, surveyed more than 2,650 business technology buyers and users across 10 European regions:
United Kingdom


The survey was commissioned by Panasonic Computer Products Solution, and undertaken in March 2016. The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-N1 handheld device was benchmarked against two other industry-leading Android tablets. For the purposes of impartiality neither of the other two handheld tablets are named in the test. 
A medical expert on repetitive strain injury (RSI), Bronwyn Clifford, Chartered Physiotherapist and Ergonomic Consultant also observed the benchmark test and provided her view on the Panasonic handheld tablet.


Laptops are still used by 90% of European employees for work activities, with 72% using a smart phone, 61% using a desktop computer and 32% using a tablet. Hybrid convertible  or detachable devices are being used by 12% of the workforce.


And when asked about the most productive device when working away from the office, 48% of workers and technology buyers across Europe said the laptop was top, with 28% saying a hybrid device, 15% picking the tablet and 8% the smartphone.


Looking to the future, the dominance of the laptop in Europe looks set to end with 36% of those sampled thinking the hybrid will be the dominant business computing tool within the next three years, with the laptop at 26%, the tablet at 14%, desktop PC at 11% and smartphone at 7%. In fact, more than half of all European workers (54%) not currently using a hybrid believe they will start to use one in the next 3 years. The industry sector workers most likely to move to hybrids were Defence (80%) and Retail (72%).


And if European users could pick just one device in the future, the laptop and hybrid devices are already neck and neck at the top of the table with 35% choosing laptops, 34% opting for a hybrid, 10% for tablets, 9% for a desktop PC and 7% for a smartphone.


The four main drivers for would-be adopters of hybrid devices across Europe were: more functionality and better availability of software (44%), better performance (42%), longer battery life (42%) and presence of a keyboard (39%). Another 30% were enticed by more interfaces available on such devices (e.g. more than one USB port etc), while almost as many (29%) were keen on the better connectivity / peripherals (e.g. smart card etc). Almost a quarter (24%) would relish a better screen, while just over a fifth (21%) thinks hybrids are more robust.


There are clear signs that as users become more familiar with mobile PCs they understand how the addition of important features can make their work lives easier and more productive. More connectivity options can ensure the device works with important peripherals such as bar code readers, increased performance can make intensive graphic software available when on the move, better screens are designed for use outside in bright sunlight or poor weather.


This research clearly shows that the traditional laptop remains the dominant device for mobile workers in the European business community, although the tablet has made significant in roads in a short space of time. But it is the rise of the convertible and detachable hybrid machines, only very recently introduced to the market, that threatens to topple the laptop’s crown. With their added capabilities and flexibility, it appears that these devices have already captured the imagination of user and buyers alike and look set to take a much larger market share over the coming years.