Mobile Workstations Have the Right Stuff for Continued Growth1 May, 2015 By: Randall S. Newton
CAD professionals have more computing choices than ever before, but the mobile workstation market is on the upswing despite the proliferation of other options.
Mobile workstations exist as a niche within a niche within a marketplace: They offer high-end power and performance to a self-selecting group of computer users who are willing to pay extra for mobility and vendor certification. Despite the recent strong growth in tablets and smartphones, and new applications that connect them to technical workflows, all indications point to continued growth of the mobile workstation market in the next three to five years.
Unit sales of mobile workstations topped 1 million for the first time ever in 2014, says Arturo Wong, who follows the market as a product manager for AMD Professional Graphics. “The total addressable market is highly influenced by economic conditions,” says Wong. “We see mobile workstations as a complementary product to someone who already has a desktop workstation. They want all the features [of a desktop model] plus mobility.”
Wong believes tablets — another popular choice for mobile computing — will co-exist with mobile workstations, not displace them. “Slim and light continues to be a trend on all portable devices,” says Wong, who adds that it is the need for high levels of power and performance that will drive mobile workstation sales for the foreseeable future.
The XiPowerGo XT incorporates a desktop-class Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU in a mobile package, with a choice of 15.6" and 17.3" screen sizes. Image courtesy of @Xi Computer.
>Workstation industry analyst and Cadalyst Contributing Editor Alex Herrera agrees that mobile workstation unit volume sales are growing, but he notes that mobiles are not taking sales away from deskside workstations. Instead, mobile workstation sales remain steady at about 25% of the total workstation market. “The total workstation market is growing, unlike the consumer market where total unit volume is decreasing,” notes Herrera, who writes the Workstation Report for Jon Peddie Research. "There is no elasticity in the workstation market, and it will stay this way for the considerable future.”
Industry research firm Business Advantage (BA) recently published results from its annual CAD Trends Survey. The company polled several hundred CAD-using companies, and found growing interest in mobile workstations, while interest is declining for deskside PCs, workstations, and consumer-class notebooks.
Use of mobile workstations by CAD users is expected to show steady growth, according to the latest edition of Business Advantage's CAD Trends Survey. Image courtesy of Business Advantage.
One BA finding is that mobile access to CAD drawings and models is expected to show strong growth in the next few years. Much of this access will be of the viewing-only variety, which can be accommodated on handheld devices that lack the computing power of a mobile workstation. But a significant percentage of mobile CAD access will be for the purposes of creating and editing, which require a more traditional device.
Mobile access to CAD drawings is expected to grow by more than 30% annually in the coming years. Chart courtesy of Business Advantage.
The Business Advantage survey of CAD users also reveals AEC firms will increase their mobile use of CAD more than manufacturing firms. That makes sense, because AEC projects usually require multiple contractors working together, whereas manufacturing is more of a single-company endeavor, even if the company has multiple locations.
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