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Diving into Mobile-Only

Mobile Only: Week 39

Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.

Working mobile-only isn’t reserved for the mobile elite. What’s great about mobility is it takes technology out of the hands of IT and ‘experts’ and places in the hands of you and me. It is well within the reach of any smartphone or tablet owner to use mobile devices for work related tasks. One such individual taking advantage of his mobile capabilities is Seth Chancy, Director of Campgrounds at Det Norske Misjonselskap (Norwegian Mission Society). Chancy recently decided to ditch the desktop and go all-in with mobile. The following is his chronicling of his first steps of going mobile-only.

    My first reasons for wanting to go mobile-only was to be laptop-less on road trips, but that has grown to trying to live without regular use of a computer. The interview with Erik Huddleston and Benjamin Robbins’s mobile-only video got me thinking about taking it a step further. And so, my mobile-only quest began.

    I was rather skeptical to the idea of my managing without a laptop – but really wanted to give the idea a go. Lugging around a laptop, the added weight, space, and the extra security checks at airports is really is no fun. But I wondered, could I manage to live mobile only for a time?

    When I went with my boss and a co-worker for a strategic planning off-site session, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to go mobile-only if ever I saw one. Working on my iPad went really well. I had expected to go into some sort of techno withdrawals, but it was much easier than expected. I had put some safeguards into place just in case. For example, I needed some files from my work laptop, and I knew I could always access the server via Citrix if needed.
    Working mobile-only went so well, that when I came home for a short hour before heading off for the weekend with my wife I didn´t get out my laptop, sit down at my desktop, or even pack my laptop. And so, I continued working mobile-only for two more days. Things continued to go smoothly that I have left my laptop at work and continue to live mobile-only.
    One of the biggest challenges I have faced is the need for a paradigm shift. When I sit in front of a screen I expect to have a mouse near my right hand. I have come to see that there is a significant difference between content creation and content consumption. I have become accustomed to consuming content on my iPad with only some minor content creation. I often say that it is not a problem to write a short answer to an e-mail on my iPhone but for longer answers I need another device. However, I can get this done on my iPad with my bluetooth keyboard. The same is true of creating excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. I have come to realize that it will take me some time before I get to a point where I can live completely mobile-only.
    The biggest challenge so far has been to find an “Office” app that works well for me. I have used DocumentsFree and Documents2, but that quest continues. I have actively used GoogleDocs for several years, for file sharing capabilities, and have also become a fan of Evernote. I also found DropBox and LogMeIn valuable tools.
    I have found it necessary to make some changes to my website so that it will be easier to post with my iPad or iPhone. However, it is amazing how many steps have taken place this past year that are actually along the way to going mobile-only.
    Normally, nonprofits like the one I work with are late adapters. But when it comes to mobile-only, we can actually lead the pack. The challenge that many companies face is that the executives that make these decisions regarding IT infrastructure often do so based on what has been, more than what will be. I would love to get to the point where my own paradigm is so radically different that I think mobile-only first and augment with a keyboard and screen when need be.

Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and 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

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