I have been reading a number of articles predicting that Mobile Platform Effect that has rung the death knell of laptop and desktop computing, and that eventually mobile platforms including your smartphone, tablets, and other touch devices will take them over.
I’d like to suggest a dose of reality. One can argue that all former forms of computers will go away, and that sells papers, as they say (in the digital world, that sensational headline will get you readers!). Like so many predictions, this is not a replacement evolution, but a complementary technology evolution. Just like voice recognition has not replaced the keyboard for authoring; neither will the tablet replace all computers. Here’s how I see the future of platforms.
Creation and Consumption
The advent of mobile has enabled the recognition of a new form of information technology – consumption. We always did consumption before, but we used the heavier content creation tool to consume. As a disruptive innovative shift, consumption enables an even higher demand for quality new content creation and not the short, brief SMS and twitter like content, but rich, full, complete content creation that can only be produced on more powerful and rich platforms like desktops and laptops. Like word processors didn’t reduce the need for paper in a predicted shift to a digital office, they increased the demand for production of more printed paper-based material.
In addition, the new platforms have enabled, in a disruptive sense, so many more people to consume content, more hours of the day.
These devices are information consumption devices. This is the evolution of the communicator (Star Trek) and it continues to evolve. However, it is and will continue to be a mobile communications device. Certainly features will converge moving from the rich features found in tablets that don’t fit in your pocket, to the device that does. However, the shift of those features inevitably loses some of its richness – smaller text, fewer options and lower fidelity as your fingers are not accurate pointing devices. As a consumption device, it’s clear to anyone that has done email that these devices cannot create content in a high production environment.
This platform too, is an information consumption device. These are the command and control centers for portable decisions and operational controls for processes, machinery and household devices. While portable, their format is not for the pocket, and their size allows for a richer and more complete set of graphic information to be presented to the user such that the right action can be taken. I these devices integrating in real-time based on location wirelessly and even physically by plugging into the front of appliances as the operator moves through the day. As a consumption device, tablets are not built for high production of content.
Laptops are the portable and nearly mobile (with their connectivity and wireless interfaces) device of choice for information and content creation devices. There are far too many people on this earth that type at 100 words per minute, and who need the feel of the keyboard which a mobile tablet cannot deliver. In addition, having a larger screen (as found on larger laptops) makes for a richer experience – even for watching movies online. Road-warriors who write, and create content, both graphics and text-based will continue to demand the capability of a laptop for writing, editing on the road, and presenting.
There will be, as there presently is now, an ebb and flow of user transition where the wrong platform is being used for a specific task, and those users move to a more appropriate platform. The dynamics of switching costs force the element of timing to be a factor in the transition to a more appropriate platform.
Before going off and dumping computers in favor of tablets and investing in other new technology, be careful that you are making a change that is grounded in what you want to do and achieve. You can’t do everything on every platform. This is also a function of user experience. MBA programs and schools are trying out tablets as a tool for students, while high-volume note-taking is much more aligned with a keyboard, than an index-finger typing approach on a tablet’s graphic icons.
Hardware Vendor Marketing Must Respond
Some effort will be required to fully reposition (a marketing function) content creation tools in the environment of the future, their business model (selling the devices will shift from the Dell online model, to some new economic model and price point, perhaps). I see these non-mobile platforms having greater integration with the cloud for computing and storage as it pertains to production and throughput of content. But, the presentation (large screens), input (mouse and keyboard) and power will continue to be in demand for some time.
Here’s an example of the difference. My mother asked me about whether she should get a Motorola Zoom Tablet. The Verizon people had told her that it had connectivity, a keyboard, a docking device, and would handle all the capacity she could use. She purchased this device based on the sales person’s advice. It was a flop in terms of content creation, failing in terms of performance, security, and speed (100+ words a minute of typing, no way!). You cannot add the features of the desktop or laptop platform to a tablet, and expect it to perform on an equivalent basis with the desktop.
In the same day, she took the device back, purchased a laptop, and is happily creating content. You see, she is a writer, working on creating content. To do that, you need a content creation device, not a consumption device. As a side note, I did advise her not to purchase the tablet with all its accessories. And, the laptop even with the software was less expensive.
How do you think of the hardware of the future in content creation and consumption perspective? So many have a perspective of how entertainment will integrate, and that’s good and inevitable, for sure. But when thinking of the difference between “work” and “entertainment,” I see a big miss by the hardware vendors in terms of positioning these new platforms for how they fit in day to day use during in this context.
Please leave a comment and share what you think. Will PCs go away soon? Can you stop using them? Have you learned to type 100+ words a minute on your smart phone and tablet?