BYO PC is bigger than you think

A lot has been said about BYOD, but BYO PC is a trend that has arguably been going on for a lot longer. Consumers had access to PCs long before the advent and mass market uptake of smartphones and tablets, and it has not been unusual to find people using them for work – sending documents to a personal email address to catch up on the to-do list in the evening or over the weekend is perhaps the most typical scenario. It has also become apparent that some employees physically bring their own laptop into the office, and many companies are encouraging this behaviour by providing employees with stipends or allowances to go out and choose the PC that they want to do their jobs.

Ovum’s recent multi-market BYOD survey gathered responses from 4,038 full-time employees across 18 countries. It aimed to uncover the extent of BYO PC activity, what was driving it, and to arrive at an understanding of the correlation between BYOD and BYO PC activity – if someone uses their own smartphone or tablet at work, what is the likelihood of them wanting to use their own PC?

How widespread is BYO PC?

The incidence of BYO PC, defined as employees physically bringing their own laptop into the office, is higher than we anticipated. Of full-time employees who own a laptop, 35.6 per cent say that they have taken it into company offices at least once, demonstrating the scale of the trend. This is not close to the level of BYOD (57.1 per cent of respondents use a personal smartphone or tablet to access corporate data), but we did not expect it to be. The use cases and form factors are very different; unlike smartphones or tablets, people do not carry PCs on their person the whole day.

We also found an increased propensity to BYO PC among OS X users, with 49 per cent of Mac laptop owners taking their own device to work, compared with 34 per cent of Windows PC users. To a certain extent this finding backs up anecdotal evidence that BYO PC is about early adopting Mac users wanting to bring their shiny toys into work, and that when companies provide stipends for laptops their offices are suddenly flooded with MacBooks. By the same token, the level of BYO PC among Windows users was higher than anticipated, with our findings demonstrating that a significant proportion (34 per cent) of Windows users have at some point brought their PC into work. BYO PC is not just about Mac, and this is important given that Windows has a much larger installed user base.

The bifurcation of attitudes between mature IT markets and developing IT markets that we first saw in the BYOD data is also evident when it comes to BYO PC. Employees in high-growth economies such as Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa are more likely than those in more mature markets to use their own PC at work.

The primary drivers

As might be expected, dissatisfaction with the PC provided by work is a key driver of BYO PC, with 23.8 per cent of those who bring their own PC to work citing IT restrictions as a contributory factor and 16 per cent saying that their company laptop is too old. However, we also saw a high rate of encouragement by employers, with 18.5 per cent of respondents saying that their employer provided them with a stipend or allowance to buy and bring their own laptop. This signals that IT departments are increasingly getting to grips with this behaviour.

The idea that people want to use a single device for work and personal purposes is not as strong around PCs as it is for smartphones and tablets. Of laptop owners, 38 per cent want to use a single device, but a similar number (37 per cent) would rather not, and the remaining 25 per cent have no view either way. It is clear, however, that an employer-provided PC of the employee’s choice for both work and personal use would be seen as a perk by the employee, with 58 per cent reacting positively to this proposition.

Again, there is a bifurcation of attitudes between mature and developing IT markets, with employees in high-growth economies more likely to want to use a single device at home and at work. This suggests a new mode of personal device usage is emerging in these markets.

Correlation between employee BYOD and BYO PC

There is a fairly strong correlation between BYO PC and BYOD behaviours, suggesting that those who engage in such activity on a particular type of device are more likely to do so on another. Of employees that bring their own smartphone to work, 48.7 per cent also BYO PC, and of those that bring their own tablet, 37.1 per cent BYO PC. On the flip side, only 18.1 per cent of employees who BYO PC do not also use their own smartphone or tablet for work purposes.

“Bring-your-own” activity, whether it relates to smartphones, tablets, or PCs, is something that quite a high percentage of individuals demonstrate a high propensity toward. If IT departments identify BYO PC activity in their business, it is likely that the same employees will also use personal smartphones or tablets, and vice versa.

Richard Absalom is an analyst with the Ovum Consumer IT practice based in London.