Moving from the PC Era to the Mobile Era

April 21, 2010
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201004171736.jpg Smart phones, mobile devices, tablets, slates…there’s no question that we’re flooded with an ever expanding number of options for connecting on the web. And beyond connecting the sheer number of things that can now be accomplished on these new devices is staggering. In the not so distant past you would only SMS, check email (& maybe respond if you had a Blackberry or Win mobile device), check a sports score or some other quick web task but beyond that it simply was too painful. Apple changed that almost three years ago with the introduction of the first iPhone with multitouch, a virtual keyboard and Apple and third party developed applications available on iTunes. The key reasons that the iPhone has created such a shift in mobile use, I believe is the vastly simplified and rich experience that multitouch and Apple’s user interface (UI) provide, the availability of so many useful apps and the vertically integrated approach (and yes I understand that there are a lot of arguments as to why this makes Apple the evil empire but that’s not the point of this post).

Now I’m at the end of week two of integrating the iPad into my workflow that was previously MacBook Pro and

201004171736.jpg Smart phones, mobile devices, tablets, slates…there’s no question that we’re flooded with an ever expanding number of options for connecting on the web. And beyond connecting the sheer number of things that can now be accomplished on these new devices is staggering. In the not so distant past you would only SMS, check email (& maybe respond if you had a Blackberry or Win mobile device), check a sports score or some other quick web task but beyond that it simply was too painful. Apple changed that almost three years ago with the introduction of the first iPhone with multitouch, a virtual keyboard and Apple and third party developed applications available on iTunes. The key reasons that the iPhone has created such a shift in mobile use, I believe is the vastly simplified and rich experience that multitouch and Apple’s user interface (UI) provide, the availability of so many useful apps and the vertically integrated approach (and yes I understand that there are a lot of arguments as to why this makes Apple the evil empire but that’s not the point of this post).

Now I’m at the end of week two of integrating the iPad into my workflow that was previously MacBook Pro and iPhone only (well, with the exception of that work provided email device that I’m forced to live with as well). I won’t spend more time reviewing the iPad, I’ve already done that and my opinion hasn’t changed. Instead I want to focus on the future and what I’m starting to believe is the next generation for personal and enterprise computing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the PC is dead, long live the tablet, but change is most certainly happening because of the enlargement of the iPhone experience to include the tablet.

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Mobile is certainly the lifestyle that most of us live. If you think about it, even the laptop was developed and gained popularity for that same reason. Now of course the demise of the desktop was also predicted because of the laptop and that hasn’t happened either, at least not yet. There are still reasons to have a desktop, more power, gaming, graphics intensive applications (like CAD for example), calculation intensive apps (CAE for example), etc. but for the most part we can live without a desktop these days (my last desktop left the house about 3 years ago, but I don’t do gaming, that’s what my Wii is for, and except for photo and video editing nothing I do is very computing power intensive. My MacBook Pro has all the horsepower I need for what I do). What I’m finding interesting and compelling with the tablet is the same thing that I find interesting and compelling about the iPhone, the touch interface, clean UI and the vertically integrated experience. For a lot of tasks I’m starting to prefer the tablet over the laptop. I find that I mostly leave the laptop in my home office and take the tablet everywhere so portability is attractive. Beyond that though media consumption is just better on the tablet and a lot of my time is spent in research. I’m also finding that creating things that are mixed media, like presentations, mind maps, and drawings are easier and more fun with the touch interface. Id probably switch to the tablet for presentations completely if it wasn’t for some current limitations (I’m mostly using Prezi for presentations and it’s Flash based so you know that story. Also most of my colleagues use PowerPoint not Keynote, sadly, and translating files back and forth is still problematic). Even typing on a glass keyboard isn’t bad, even though it does take some getting used to.

The UI paradigm for PCs is getting dated. Really the idea of mimicking offline in a virtual “desk top” with folder and files cabinets is pretty silly, even if it is very familiar and probably did aide adoption when PCs were just becoming popular. Maybe we’re past that now? We’re starting to see a new generation of online communications tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, 12second.tv, Google Wave, Novell Pulse, salesforce.com Chatter, Socialcast, Pana.ma…the list goes on, so why not also new UI paradigms?

For mobile to continue to evolve and gain adoption in the enterprise we need to solve a few things. For one we have to get out of our IT control model that has limited many companies to Blackberry as the only approved device, employees are simply working around that anyway. We also have to give employees access to the complete portfolio of enterprise apps, not just email or a few very simple vendor provided mobile apps. One solution that I’m pretty excited about is mobile virtualization. Citrix has a product called Receiver that is first of it’s kind, and provides a very good user experience while solving enterprise security issues.

The PCs not dead yet by a long shot (probably for quite awhile yet), but things are changing. More of the workforce will start to use devices like smart phones and tablets to do real enterprise work and companies will be compelled to figure out how to enable that use. There’s a great case around employee productivity if we will look beyond our current limitations. The intersection of three things, cloud computing, mobile and social are driving technology and business for the foreseeable future.

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