Microsoft: Many workers are stuck on old computers and should probably upgrade

What was that, Brad Smith? You're at climate summit COP26 talking about sustainability plans? You're breaking up... Going in a tunnel

Microsoft published a report today that highlights the "problem" of users sticking with ageing devices.

It's all in the name of productivity, of course, as the company pointed to a potential gap between staff using old kit compared to those with newer computers as remote working becomes the norm for more employees.

The report, titled "Device Decisions", ponders changing considerations in the IT workplace, and found that two-thirds of employees with a company laptop were still using the same kit they had at the start of the pandemic. That just won't do. "More than a third of employees who received new devices since the onset of COVID-19 reported a resulting increase in their productivity," said Microsoft.

As well the company might. Surface hardware revenues dipped in Microsoft's last set of financial figures and if its latest operating system, Windows 11, is to make headway in the world, then some devices that might have seemed the bee's knees in 2019 must be ushered into landfill... or preferably recycled.

The report claims 16 per cent of employees (3,027 UK staffers were surveyed) reckon a new device "would increase their motivation."

"The message from employees," said Microsoft, "is that they expect to be given efficient devices, not something that just about gets the job done, or slows them down as a result."

But presumably not something running on Apple's M1 Silicon. Another survey (this one global, but only consisting of 2,000 employees and 500 IT decision makers) highlighted by Jamf's Dean Hager reckoned that nearly nine out of 10 employees would actually take a cut in pay if they could choose their own work device.

The survey notes that while traditionally office-bound workers have had upgrades to permit homeworking, employees who were already relatively mobile might have dropped to the bottom of the hardware refresh pile.

That said, not everyone is keen for the hardware refresh cycle to kick into gear. The need to cut electronic waste was emphasised by the British Computer Society in the run-up to the COP26 climate change summit, and the relentlessness of product release cycles was noted as being unhelpful. Eking a bit more life out of kit rather than replacing it would make sense, right?

Which is where Microsoft's own schisms come into play. On the one hand the company never misses an opportunity to trumpet its green credentials, be it through carbon removal and handwringing missives from its president or its Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability. Just today, Microsoft president Brad Smith was "outlining" the firm's "sustainability plans" at the climate change summit.

On the other hand, its operating system division has consigned millions of perfectly functioning PCs to obsolescence thanks to a bump in hardware requirements, while its hardware group would dearly like decision makers to crack open the corporate wallet – all in the name of employee happiness and productivity, of course.

The key findings of Microsoft's report include the comment that "routine device upgrades were shelved [during the pandemic] but now tech refreshes are back." Or perhaps an opportunity for decision makers to consider a different approach to productivity than simply throwing new hardware at a problem. ®

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