Could a 30-in. monitor help you do your job faster?

Apple-sponsored study boasts productivity gains of up to 65 percent

But several personal productivity experts who evaluate how hardware and work habits affect productivity disagreed with Pfeiffer's findings.

"I can surf the Net on one monitor and do something else on the other," said Peggy Duncan, an personal productivity expert and principal of PSC Press. "It all goes back to seeing more stuff at one time. But, in my opinion, productivity is increased more by using dual monitors."

Laura Stack, owner of The Productivity Pro consulting firm in Denver, said Pfeiffer's estimated productivity gains are way too high. She would estimate a maximum 5 percent productivity gain for workers using a larger monitor. "But you're not going to see the boost in productivity you'll see by adding a second screen," which could increase productivity as much as 30 percent, Stack said.

"People are not robots," Stack said. "It's impossible to see those kinds of productivity gains" as measured in the Pfeiffer study.

Neen James, a personal productivity expert who runs Neen James Communications, said a single larger screen could provide health benefits for workers such as less eye squinting, but she agreed that dual monitors would likely offer more verifiable productivity gains. "Those sorts of claims are fabulous from a marketing point of view," she said of the study, "but you can make statistics say anything."

Another productivity expert, however, said that either solution -- a single large monitor or dual displays -- could help workers, depending on what they do. "I think it would be a very personal decision," said Jan Jasper, principal of New York-based Jasper Productivity Solutions. "There's no contest to having more space [to work]."

Akilesh Bajaj, an MIS professor at the College of Business Administration at the University of Tulsa, reviewed the Pfeiffer report but said more research is needed before accurate conclusions are reached. "There's a lot of image processing [in the study] so it's easy to see where [the larger screen] would increase productivity," Bajaj said. But anecdotal remarks from colleagues estimated that they would not see substantial gains in their own work from having a larger screen, he said.

One multiple-monitor fan, Martin Doucet, owner of Vaixe, a small Montreal-based book publishing company, said he uses one primary 19-in. CRT monitor and two additional 17-in. CRT monitors to get his work done more efficiently in his home office. Doucet said he has been using the system for two years, with one screen for manuscript proofreading, another to follow the author's story plan and the third for communicating via e-mail or instant messaging.

"Having that much room makes it easy," he said. "I have everything at a glance. It saves time because you don't have to ALT-Tab all the time."

Apple's 30-in. display hasn't had much competition in that size range since its introduction, but Samsung Electronics America will debut its own 30-in. LCD monitor later this month at an estimated US$1,999, said Andy Weis, a product marketing manager at Samsung. The company has not done any specific research on productivity increases tied to larger screens, he said.

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Todd R. Weiss

Computerworld
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