Technically they are company assets, but with all the digital photos and MP3s, the computers employees work on often become quasi-personal property. So why fight it? Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2008, 10% of companies will provide workers with a stipend to buy laptops that they will carry between work and home.
Establishing a laptop allowance won't cut computer costs, but the move does allow companies to remove PCs from their books, tightening up the balance sheet. "The laptop is becoming more of a personal device, much like a cell phone, and that is inconsistent with naming it a company asset," says Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds, who is based in San Jose, Calif.
Reynolds suggests that the declining cost of laptops makes it feasible to ask employees to buy their own. So does technology that allows one machine to be segmented so that personal and business applications are compartmentalized. Obviously, security is a concern, but many firms are already facing this issue as employees dial in to a network from home.
Some workers may gripe at the idea of purchasing their own laptops, but there's a chance a few are familiar with the notion thanks to their kids. Many universities, and even some private high schools, have mandatory laptop programs. Employees may even view owning their work machines as a perk. "Rather than the one-size-fits-all mentality that companies have now in terms of their computers, a laptop allowance gives employees the opportunity to get a computer that fits their specific needs," says Reynolds, "and perhaps get a nicer computer than they would have purchased on their own."