PC-era dinosaurs: Beware the BYOD Extinction Level Event
Ah! Life in paradise. As the literal incarnation of the mythical "guy who ran away to a tropical island", I've had the joy of returning to my once primary (and now mostly vacation) home in the United States only to discover all of the things that can go wrong with an empty house in the Florida heat (this time, it was a failed A/C compressor -- ugh!).
However, I've also had the opportunity to revisit many of my core IT beliefs from the perspective of a relative outsider living in the slower-paced world of coconuts, litches and 2Mbps ADSL connections. Basically, my geographic isolation has forced me to take the long view on new technology trends. Which is why I'm so excited about the potential of BYOD: I see the emergence of the Post-PC phenomenon as a truly disruptive force that will forever change how people view "computers".
My Blue Collar Saviors
I found myself pondering such things while sitting mesmerized by the the burly HVAC guys servicing my dilapidated Carrier 5-ton unit. It wasn't their "body-by-budweiser" physiques or vicious "carpenter cleavage" that held my attention. Rather, it was the well-worn iPad case that the "big boss" toted with him everywhere. And when my blue collar saviors had finally, restored the cooling to my swanky Wellington abode (Polo, anyone?), I had to smile as the big man whipped out his somewhat sticky/sweaty tablet and had me chicken-scratch my signature before firing-off an email bill via Invoices to Go (it was in my Playbook's inbox before his van left the driveway - gotta love 3G).
I mention this story because it illustrates how BYOD in general, and tablet technology in particular, is acting as a kind of technology equalizer, one that transcends socioeconomic boundaries. I can't imagine my HVAC friend toting a laptop around all day. Not only would it fail to survive the rigors of his work environment (in this case, a well-protected iPad is the more durable option), it would likely run out of battery long before he was in a position to recharge it (assuming he could even spare a few hours to do so -- it's Florida, and these guys are always busy). However, for less than $1,000.00, he can equip himself with a 3G iPad and take his entire customer billing system with him in a neat little 1-2 pound package that lasts all day long.
It's stories like these that prompt me to take a step back and try to see the bigger picture -- in this case, the combination of convenient form factor and battery life eliminating the cost and tedium of after-hours manual data entry. And it's also why I find articles, like the one recently penned by my colleague, Mihaita Bamburic, to be decidedly short-sighted.
Mr. Bamburic, you sir are a dinosaur (from your photo, I'm guessing Stegosaurus, but I digress). Not only did you miss the bigger picture perspective I mentioned above, your arguments against tablets and for PCs are positively Jurassic.
For example, the notion that you can't multitask on a tablet is pure rubbish. I bounced between a half-dozen different applications as I assembled this piece on my RIM Playbook, and I frequently mix concurrent tasks -- researching in a browser/newsreader app, generating content in Docs to Go, downloading supporting materials (in the background) while exchanging messages/email -- all in a very fluid, "PC-like" fashion.
I do carry a portable Bluetooth keyboard and mouse during longer outings, however, it's more a matter of convenience (I'm a practiced touch-typist) than necessity. In other words, I can continue to function just fine without them, which is more than I can say for any run-of-the-mill laptop computer.
I also take issue with your definition of "real work". For the less than 5 percent of us who have ever fired-up a copy of Photoshop or AutoCAD, I will concede that a traditional PC is a prerequisite. However, for the remaining 95 percent or more of us who primarily interact with browser based line-of-business applications, along with supporting email and occasional light document editing or presentation functions, any one of the leading tablet platforms is more than adequate.
End users are beginning to understand this. From field sales reps needing quick access to catalog data while (literally) on the move, to insurance adjusters filling out electronic forms with integrated media (photos/videos), to my man Julio and his sticky iPad invoicing system, those who do "real work" for a living have fully embraced the BYOD wave. And, more to the point, they're voting with their wallets.
So watch out, PC-era dinosaurs. That Extinction Level Event (E.L.E.) you've all been dreading is just around the corner.
Catch Randall C. Kennedy's smart analysis of tech trends every Tuesday and Friday here at BetaNews.