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?