What’s it going to take to not think of mobile devices as just an addition to the PC mind-set? How can we move to a more streamlined setup? This week I am taking a short break from examining collaboration to look at the latest Forrester research on mobile devices. According to Forrester:
Tablets [will] only partially cannibalize PCs. Eventually tablets will slow laptop sales but increase sales of desktop PCs. That’s because many people, especially information workers, will still need conventional PCs for any intensely creative work at a desk that requires a large display or significant processing power.
The above quote is the latest analysis from Forrester as of April 23rd. The report from Forrester predicts that by 2016 tablets will be our primary computing device. However, Forrester thinks that this transition to tablets as our primary device will be in addition to our PCs. Is this really as far as we will get in our mobile vision? Is the best we can hope for a replacement of our laptops?
This latest research from Forrester implies that in the next four years we’ll go from a PC, laptop, and smartphone to a PC, tablet, and smartphone. While this is a step in the right direction, I don’t consider that much of an improvement. For years, I have been able to have a stationary device (PC), a portable device (laptop), and a limited communication device (phone). Is swapping out the type of portable device that much of a win in the bigger picture? Yes, I know a tablet is easier to carry and pass around – but I am already cluttered with too much electronic baggage. Shouldn’t we be moving towards streamlined simplicity? Shouldn’t we be striving for improved efficiency rather than a slick replacement for our laptops? I don’t want to have a PC, a tablet, and a phone. It’s not a big improvement over where I am currently at. There is no advantage in it for me. What I want to have is those three device collapsed into a single context-aware device that meets my needs from the office, to the coffee shop, to on the street.
What is the biggest hindrance to this vision? I’ll argue that is it visual in nature at its most basic principle. We have become accustomed to our large screens. Tablets and smartphones do not currently adjust appropriately when connected to a monitor. We crave our vast expanses of screen real-estate. Our tablets and smartphones are not yet up to the challenge of projecting correctly upon these canvases. We need to expect more of the hardware and OS.
A secondary issue is that we are creatures of habit. We have come to a level of comfort with our way of working with the PC. We crave the repetitive nature of coming in to work each day and sitting at the same location, leveraging the same toolset (apps), and performing the same tasks. Mobility creates a disruption in that paradigm and causes us to push our work boundaries. Tablets offer convenience but we are not ready to fully commit to them. In the end, it seems it is easier to choose the intellectually easy path of the status quo.
In the last analysis, does it really come down to the fact that people are habitual creatures that can’t escape from the routine of showing up to the same place, same seat, and same way of computing? Will it really take a decade or more to break free of our current way of thinking about computing? Can we move beyond the idea of tablets and mobile devices as our primary device – to our only device? Is Forrester spot-on in describing this transition, as one that just replaces laptops in our current paradigm? Mobility has more to offer than just a more productive and efficient way of working than a laptop. Do we have enough foresight to take advantage of it? Post a comment and let me know!
Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com