The Mobile Device Disconnect? Not Here

There is lots of buzz lately around the “ death of the PC,” with the latest industry expert to voice her opinion on the topic being Natalie Lambert of Citrix. Her article about The mobile device disconnect caught my attention not necessarily because of her POV, but because the recent Forrester Consulting study she referenced indicates that workers’ mobile device usage actually contradicts many assumptions about workers’ preferred computing devices – and the reality of the PC’s role in the office.

Let’s start with the facts presented in the study’s findings (then my “reality”) :

  • STUDY FINDING: Mobile devices are the preferred devices in most locations, but the office desk is the ONLY place where a PC is the preferred device.
  • MY REALITY: I can see how someone wouldn’t want to use their smartphone as their primary computing device in the office. But, the thing is, today’s mobile tablets (or at least the ones we design and manufacture here at Xplore) ARE PCs and can do everything a PC can do. In fact, with docks, keyboards, large screens, and other supporting tools of today’s tablets purposefully built to support in-office desktop use, there’s no reason to have a second device – whether a desktop PC or laptop. Here at Xplore, we’ve been using our tablet PCs as our primary computing devices – even in the office – for years. The key is to find a tablet PC that truly replicates the traditional PC experience from ease of use to computing power.

Public Safety vehicles using Vehicle Area Networks for Mobile Technology

  • STUDY FINDING : PCs are the preferred devices for real work. When asked which device they would prefer to use for a set of applications, such as email, internet browsing, office productivity tools (think Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc.), and more, PCs again won out…and by a wide margin! As an example, 91% of information workers said they prefer using a PC for office productivity suites compared with only 4% that prefer a mobile device. This may seem obvious, but similar results for other apps as well: 76% prefer using a PC for browsing the internet vs. 22% that prefer a mobile device and 58% prefer a PC for email, while only 39% prefer a mobile device. So, despite an overall preference for mobile devices when not at an office deck, the reality is the PCs still are preferred when it comes to getting work done.
  • MY REALITY : The survey findings are spot on. Workers do need a true PC to enjoy high ease of use they’re accustomed to in the office. Where I disagree is that mobile devices aren’t capable of being the device they use for “real work”. Tablet PCs, or again the ones we build here at Xplore, do allow email, Internet, productivity tools, etc. to in fact look, feel and work exactly like they would on a desktop or laptop PC. That’s where our ability to integrate keyboards, larger screens, USBs for printer capabilities, etc. come in. Our customer basically adds their software to the “mobile” tablet PC and voila – their PC experience can travel anywhere their workers may go. So while I agree that PCs would be the most logical – and preferred – device for real work, I don’t agree that a mobile device couldn’t be a preferred device for real work considering that tablet PCs ARE mobile devices and PCs.
  • STUDY FINDING: Mobile devices are not provided access to tools needed to get work done. When asked about the ability to access applications and data on a mobile device, only 40% of information workers said they could access the apps they need on a mobile device and 34% said they could access data on that device – this compares to 77% and 74%, respectively, who feel they can access apps and data on their laptops. They were also frustrated around the inconsistencies in experience when moving between devices.
  • MY REALITY: Tablets, if purpose-built for the job at hand, CAN indeed give workers the access they need to the applications and data essential to not only their most critical workflows but all their daily workflows. I suspect the reason so many survey participants expressed frustration around inconsistency in device experience between the office, home and field is because they had some consumer devices in the mix. Unfortunately, they’re learning the hard lesson that – despite the perception of being user friendly or “familiar” – consumer devices just aren’t meant to support that “real work” that we need to get done and therefore aren’t designed to support the work-specific tools.

So while many industry experts may take a clear-cut “yay or nay” position on whether or not the PC is dead, I say it’s not that simple. If I had to pick a side – and I’m sure the mobile workers using our tablets would agree – I’d say the PC is definitely not dead. It has just taken on a new, more agile and fully mobile form without abandoning its core capabilities or benefits. Perhaps that’s why Xplore customers (and customers of the former Motion Computing) have never really felt the disconnect Natalie references or this Forrester Consulting study seems to suggest exists widespread. I’m not discounting their findings. I just have a sneaking suspicion that the workers surveyed are either with organizations that have attempted a BYOD mobile strategy or even consumer-device approach. Or their employers have gone with a tablet that isn’t purpose built for their job. Our customers – all of whom support field service-type tasks in some capacity – have found that by going with a tablet PC that is highly-configurable and designed specifically for the level of ruggedness, connectivity, mobility, speed, security and accessories they require has allowed them to remain connected even when others may unfortunately feel this mobile device disconnect.

See the CIO article: "The Mobile Device Disconnect"