I have read a few similar articles about the number of laptops lost in airports as well as just having them stolen from cafes, cars, etc. The company I work for does software consulting for nonprofit organizations. We travel quite a bit and I convinced my manager (with the help of the IT Manager) that the threat was real enough to encrypt client data. It started with just an encrypted folder on the laptop, but now we have moved to fully encrypting the entire laptop. We also taped our business cards to our laptops in hopes of helping to identify them if they are ever lost.
Of course the big obstacle is still people. I have encrypted everyone's laptop and we have rules that encrypted USB drives must be used to transport any company data between laptops or client computers when out of the office, but I constantly see people plug their personal, unencrypted USB drives into their laptop, copy a file for a client, then not think about it again. I have to nag them to even go remove the file from their USB drive and explain to them that if they forget to do that, we could end up in a news article some day and all be out of jobs because they forgot to delete a payroll report or something off a USB drive they were not supposed to be using in the first place.
I agree that hopefully a thief would see an encrypted drive and just wipe the laptop, but even if they don't and ultimately get to the data, I think at least taking steps to show you protected the data will help out from a business standpoint. I mean really, would you rather read an article in the newspaper saying that your personal info was now in the hands of a computer criminal because they cracked an encrypted laptop your company lost, or the same article that says you left your laptop at the airport, someone turned it on, and well, sorry but someone else now has your info. It was an accident?