The PC is dead. Long live the… let’s say mobile device

PC sales in the consumer market are gradually slumping, whilst the uptake of both smartphones and tablets is rocketing. We now exist in an era where even getting a laptop out, and firing it up for information is seen as too much effort. Users instead prefer to reach for their mobile or swipe their iPad screens. The new user-friendly era, where technology is available to everyone irrespective of technical knowhow, offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. What is becoming apparent is that the enterprise market is starting to catch up, with employees opting to use their iPads rather than laptops in meetings. If the PC is being replaced as the next generation’s primary computing device, how should the enterprise react and develop suitable strategies?

It has been suggested that it doesn’t matter what devices people use, they all need to be viewed as PCs. This is not the correct way to embrace enterprise mobility.  Instead, CIOs need to consider the context in which each device is likely to be used and design appropriate interfaces for each. For example, tablets are more likely to be used in meetings with many people around – perhaps for presentations – whilst laptops are used at desks with time to flip between screens. Smartphones, meanwhile, tend to be used whilst on the road. In each situation, the data the user views and the level of interaction and concentration required is completely different. This is where re-engineering business processes with mobile devices comes in to play. Essentially, this means the ‘mash-up’ of relevant data regardless of the source application, onto that particular device’s screen, enabling the user to get the most from existing applications and making processes as efficient as possible.

Alternatively, if we simply present exactly the same information in different screen sizes, adoption of the enterprise approved applications might be reduced, as employees revert to downloading external apps to help them do their job better. For the enterprise, this is the true danger with mobility. We need to acknowledge the fact that smartphones, tablets and whatever mobile devices may come in the future, are not in fact PCs, and that each has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s within this context that we must design our applications and develop a solid mobile strategy. This will mean either having the skills in house to develop for each mobile device and tablet, or choosing an application platform that allows developers to abstract themselves from the complications of coding for multiple devices. The focus will therefore shift to how best to present the right information to the right people, at the right time, on the right device.

The post PC era will not be limited to the likes of the iPhone and iPad, where forthcoming releases, such as the Kindle Fire will ensure tablets and smartphones continue to be driving forces for enterprise innovation. What remains to be seen is which businesses will truly embrace mobility and see it as a true business opportunity, and which will simply pay it lip service, whilst attempting to carry on as normal with smaller screen sizes.

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