Mobiles: The Stealth Revolution?

Global computer sales are down, possibly because today’s consumer electronics  users, enamored with their smart phones and tablets,  no longer see a need for comparatively bloated and bulky laptops, let alone desktop machines.   As mobile devices become more usable, this trend will likely spread to the workplace. Prepare to pull out your iPhone, hit record, and bear witness as the PC joins the ranks of teletype machines and mainframe computers beyond the IT veil.
 
Users who balked at carrying even the lightest laptops wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without their mobiles. They take their Androids with them on dates, they bring iPads to basketball games, and to the chagrin of many in IT, they also take them to work and expect that the helpdesk at the very least should help them configure these devices for corporate email, whether or not these devices officially supported and sanctioned.
Software vendors have taken notice of the proliferation of smart mobile devices in the workplace and are responding accordingly. CRMs including SalesLogic and ACT!  offer support for mobile access while many other vendors have such functionality in their development pipelines.  This trend will almost certainly continue. It would be wise to anticipate that users will soon expect to actually work from their mobiles and not just email, surf, and play Angry Birds.  Newer devices like Acer’s Iconia tablet with keyboard dock seem poised to make tablets practical in those times when only a full size keyboard will do.
 
So what does this all mean? It may we be that we’re witnessing the last days of the PC in the workplace. More important, this could be the end of IT’s control over the corporate endpoint. This may cause IT traditionalists many lost hours of sleep; change, after all, is hard. When you really think about it though, maybe this mobile centric vision of the future wouldn't be such a bad thing. From an IT standpoint, the best way to provision a user’s mobile device for the workplace would be to treat it like a thin-client and make centralized corporate IT resources available to them from the cloud.  This would essentially fulfill Larry Ellison’s decades old dream of thin-client computing.  No more mass rollouts of end user software, no desktop antivirus and firewall worries and--if further down the road it becomes the norm for workers to use their own devices at the office--no hardware upgrade cycles. Change could be good.
 
So, how does your organization respond the rise of mobile devices? What do you think are the odds that within the decade, mobiles will have supplanted the PCs place in the enterprise?
 

  

Comments

The end of the PC, at least as we know it?

Nice post, Jay. Acer's Iconia is one great example of the interoperability that I think we'll see between mobile devices and their desktop counterparts. I personally don't entirely buy the "this is the end of the PC in the workplace idea" per se, anymore than I buy the statement that "e-mail is dead" because of social media.

I think what we'll see is a continued blurring of lines among these different technologies, to the benefit of the consumer, and yes, the bain of the IT folks supporting them and trying to be compliant in terms of security and privacy.

I think you're right on about the role of cloud computing in the interplay among an individual's devices. I see a future where most of a person's data is on the cloud, and where you can go from PC to mobile to entertainment center to even displays in stores and shopping markets seemlessly. These will be interesting times. Looking forward to seeing how nonprofits will leverage the ubiquitousness of data and communications devices to help service users.

Re: The end of the PC, at least as we know it?

Thanks for your reply, Cary. Great point about the blurring of lines among different technologies. Despite the rise of mobile devices, the PC will likely have a perch (though possibly a shrinking perch) in the workplace for quite awhile. Afterall, mainframe and minicomputers still have a place in the enterprise after three decades of widespread PC computing.

Though there's a halo of hype around it, the cloud also offers the opportunity for nonprofits and small businesses to get more IT service for less investment than they could in the past. We at Idealware are in the process of moving our file storage to a cloud-based service (actually it's a hybrid service, but that's a whole other post). We were initially looking for ways to reliably back up files on our network drive, and to allow staff and external collobarators remote access to those files. We could have pieced together a traditional in-house solution but without an IT staff and with no one able to regularly don the IT hat, it made sense for us to look to a managed solution in the cloud.

Good call on the decision to

Good call on the decision to go to the cloud for your file backup and sharing! It's a solution that some Minnesota nonprofits, like the Girl Scouts of Minnesota have put into practice very effectively, and we're trying to encourage other nonprofits to consider the option too. Love the software as service model for small and growing organizations.