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Anyone Who Doesn’t Believe In ‘Mobile Only’ Needs To Look At This Photo

Mobile Only: Week 41

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.

Henry Blodget, CEO and editor-in-chief of Business Insider, recently wrote a piece entitled “Anyone Who Believes In ‘Mobile First’ Needs To Look At This Photo.” In the post, Blodget states that mobile-only and mobile-first are myths that only the most misguided would base their company upon. Blodget’s shortsighted position emanates from a place of not being able to recognize one’s own tired and worn work patterns.

Blodget’s evidence is founded on nothing more than what he can see when he walks out of his office door. In the piece, Blodget posts a picture of the Business Insider newsroom and posits, “So, how much ‘mobile’ do you see in that photo? Not a whole lot (if any).” He further backs his claim by noting that this is a picture of the “digital generation,” early adopters in their 20s and 30s who, in his mind, would logically be the ones who leverage mobility to the max. So if they aren’t working on mobile devices then mobility is nothing but an off-hours toy best used text, shop, and consume.

Blodget further reasons that the ultimate limitation to mobility in the workplace is screen size. Workers will “be damned if they’re going to spend all that time squinting at tiny mobile screens.” Unfortunately he is allowing something so small get in the way of something so much bigger. This is a technical hurdle that is easily solved. Wireless display technology, such as AirPlay and AllShare Cast, is here and available now. These wireless display technologies allow you to easily project your mobile screen onto as large a monitor as you please.

To fight fire with fire, I thought I’d step back in time just a little bit and use a different paradigm and office-setting photo to make my point.

This photo, taken in the 1970s of a typing pool, could have been the same foolish fodder that someone produced as evidence of the myth of the PC in the workplace. It would have been very easy to claim that PCs have no place in the enterprise. Sure, enthusiasts will use them at home, but how silly to think that someone would use it to accomplish real work.

A 1970s version of Blodget could have declared, “Anyone who believes in the PC as a work tool just needs to look at this photo.” He could easily have said, “Where are the personal computers in this office? The technically savvy may have one at home, but surely not in the office. That is what the typewriter is for. The idea that most companies should reorient their entire businesses around the PC seems misguided, at best.”

But he would have been wrong, quite wrong, billions of workers and dollars wrong. Thankfully, people like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs didn’t listen to such declarations claiming that the PC was a hobby device relegated for limited tasks and, ultimately, just a passing fad like the CB radio. Gates, Jobs, and the rest saw the PC for what is was capable of, not where we were at the time. And yes, they based their companies on it. Were there other companies that didn’t succeed in doing so? Indeed there were. But you’d be a fool to use the failure of a few as the indication for the failure for all. Not all trees bear fruit.

Blodget’s din is nothing more than a masked version of the sad sentiment that mobile is for content consumption and not content creation. His vision extends no further than the present. His analysis rests on the habits of his cohorts. But as creatures of habit, we retreat to what we’ve always done. Transition isn’t instantaneous. In short, he entirely misses the point of mobility and the capabilities it provides.

The fundament flaw in Blodget’s argument is that he simply does not understand what mobile is. He is chained to his PC habits and can’t see how beyond the technical hurdles are capabilities that far exceed the weight and stationary nature of the PC. The preoccupation that mobile equals small screens is blocking his ability to see the big picture.

Opinions are wide and varied, but sales don’t lie. The PC is on its way to becoming anachronistic in the modern enterprise. With any luck, the attitude and perceptions that mobility is only for consumption will soon be as well.

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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