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How the cloud is changing laptop design

laptop keyboard

Modern laptop computer design has its roots in a time when most PCs were intended to be used as stand-alone devices, unconnected to the rest of the world. But as we know, computers today mostly function as conduits for data downloaded from cloud services and providers.

This has big implications for laptop hardware and software design, with roll-on impacts on cost, connectivity, productivity and ultimately, user satisfaction.

Let’s look at two critical components in the typical laptop computer: network adapters and storage. These take on new and different functions when cloud services and applications are taken into account. The two will have different impacts on price and overall performance and are especially critical for cloud application performance.

Network adapter

It doesn’t seem like something you should worry about, but it’s well worth checking what adapter your laptop is packing. First, make sure it’s using the latest version of the wireless network standard: 802.11ac standard (not 802.11ac draft). Many of the components produced under 802.11 ac draft specifications can be updated for standards compliance –but not all. Even those that can be updated represent an additional step and cost of deployment.

Second, check the laptop’s antennas – their antenna number and configuration. To get the best performance from 802.11 ac, a laptop needs two or three antennas properly configured to take advantage of 802.11 ac Wave 2 capabilities—a single antenna won’t do it. Since the antennas won’t be visible, it pays to check the laptop’s full specifications or check directly with the vendor.


Physical storage is getting cheaper, and thanks to cloud services, we need less of it on our laptops. When applications, and especially data, are accessed from the cloud, they don’t need to be stored on your machine. This allows manufacturers to do two things:

  • Switch from mechanical hard drives to solid-state drives, improving performance without increasing cost.
  • Reduce the overall storage offered, saving build costs to either reduce the sale price or improve other components.

Cloud services don’t make the laptop unnecessary, nor do they mean that physical components don’t matter. Rather, they make laptop design a constantly evolving discipline, as the costs, benefits and utility of different features change. Make sure your fleet is keeping pace so it can provide reliable service to all users.