The misunderstood mini PC

Mini PCs offer numerous improvements and advantages when compared to both standard desktops and laptops. Yet despite this, common misperceptions about these devices mean they remain largely misunderstood.

Johannesburg, 27 Oct 2020
Read time 3min 50sec
Xavier Nel, head of product, CloudGate.
Xavier Nel, head of product, CloudGate.

Although the mini PC (MPC) has been around in some form or another for quite some time, it still has huge misperceptions to overcome if it is to deliver the many benefits that it is also renowned for. At present, it seems, many people and organisations do not understand the concept of the MPC properly.

The real challenge, explains Xavier Nel, Head of Product at CloudGate, is that this misunderstanding is being made not only by the end-customer, but crucially by those who should know better – namely the managed service providers and hardware resellers.

“One of the key challenges with the MPC is that, because it is not that well known or properly understood by the market, there is a tendency to choose the supposedly safer or better-understood options. Generally, this means defaulting to a laptop instead. In the current economy, risk-averse IT providers and resellers do not want to offer something that ultimately may not tick all the right boxes, and may end up being a costly mistake for their customers,” he says.

“In a lot of instances, a laptop may appear to be the ideal solution, especially in today’s work-from-home environment. However, this is not always the case. Take for example a contact centre agent who has to now operate remotely – their usual work environment consists of a desktop, keyboard, mouse and one or even two large screens. So although a laptop is a quick and easy to implement alternative, it is very different to what the agent is used to working on.”

The MPC, of course, is small, powerful, easy to implement and can be connected to a large screen (or screens), external keyboard and mouse, and can very accurately recreate the desktop environment that the agent is used to, ensuring they remain as productive remotely as at the call centre.

“I think the biggest reason these devices have not yet taken off massively is because the market is simply not ready for MPCs yet. Although much is being done to raise awareness, I get the feeling that they are still ahead of their time. Too many people still view these devices as quirky, niche products, rather than something that is essentially desktop 2.0 – the market itself is not yet mature enough to truly embrace this technology.

“The distributors and MSPs are still very focused on laptops and traditional desktops, and it requires their acceptance of the benefits of MPCs to genuinely create a big shift in the market. Without buy-in from the rest of the industry, it will be a struggle to gain traction, although cost is increasingly becoming a factor in IT decisions, and this is where the MPC can offer huge value, as it is a cheaper and superior alternative to most standard desktops.”

Nel suggests the MPC is ideally positioned to be the perfect gateway into, and enabler of, the cloud, something that will be vital once everything of importance resides in the cloud, which is where things are inevitably heading. All that is required is a small, lightweight, power-efficient device that is easy to install and cost-effective to operate - and the MPC ticks all these boxes, while still offering all the advantages of a standard desktop.

“It is worth noting that a lot of the early adopters delving into the MPC space have been burned, but this is because – as with any emerging technology – there are some cheap, sub-par products out there. Obviously, even the good devices have limitations, but if one understands what the MPC offers, it can be purchased to fit specific requirements. Ultimately, the key driver of technology is to make things easier and cheaper, and the MPC fits both of these bills easily.

“I believe it is crucial to constantly reinforce the message around the benefits of these devices, until big business also reaches this same realisation. And of course, with technology constantly evolving, MPCs are also becoming more powerful. This means that it will soon be suitable for virtually any industry. I am a passionate believer that within a few years, mini PCs will be the norm rather than the exception."

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