Tuesday, October 7, 2008

State of Mobile War - Mobile Devices Versus Laptops

I was discussing with with a friend in conjunction with the state of mobility.  I came up Treocentral's discussion in this subject and I thought it would be a good place to start.

I have to expend on the matter as mobile devices, once the domain of corporate workers and managers, is just as ubiquitous as with students, soccer moms, and other unique average Joe mobile users.  The question asked by InformationWeek, via Treocentral, is whether we can ditch our laptops for iPhones, Blackberries, and like devices.

Definitely.  I didn't think such a question needed to be ask.  Now, it's not to say mobile devices can do it all in all instances.  Just the same, why carry around a laptop when the computing powers that exist in our handhelds can do 80-90% of the job with sacrificing efficiency?

For years now, Windows Mobile devices have had a mobile version of Office that Microsoft-powered devices shipped.  On the Palm platform, when it was much stronger, it was supported by Data-Biz's Documents-To-Go.  I can attest to the usefulness without having to resort to desktop version of these office suites.

With wireless Internet access, the power of mobile devices are further extended, allow users to reach corporate data or just data from the cloud for instance access.  Imagine an real estate agent who needed to have documents prepared and sent over to a client's home or office.  In the past, such documents would be needed to write up and faxed manually.

Already, hospitals are using mobile devices to update doctors and nurses with patient information, prescriptions, and schedules.  In the area of public safety, even some cities are arming civil servants with handhelds to access data wirelessly.

An IW survey indicated 30% of enterprise workers use their smartphones for enterprise connection and 37% at times leave their laptops in favor of their mobile devices.  Such drive will only increase as software vendors like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft push apps to supplement existing applications traditionally reserved for laptops.  Another factor driving smartphone use is time.  With added support and input from users, app developers will gain additional expertise creating adequate UI for mobile use.

Treocentral pointed out some specific examples and I encourage you heading over to take a look at it.  Specially, the pointed out GM, Oracle, and Dryers Ice Cream.

Drawbacks:  Obviously, the screen.  We're talking about 3-3.5" as the medium size screen for mobile devices, less if you have a physical keyboard.  On laptops, we have anywhere from 10" to 17" sized screens.  And if we bring netbooks into this, we may be talking about 7" to 10" as the middle ground.  having said that, for mobile workers, tasks can be more concentrated to specific tasks that does require the relatively bigger real state screen that laptop affords.  For ERP and CRM, smaller screens may not be an issue if the UI is created well.

For most tasks, communicating (texting, e-mailing) and gather information, the workforce is how proficient enough to do that provided you have the adequate applications such as iPhone's Safari and Blackberry's push mail.  On the  productivity front, I find Microsoft's mobile office to be quite adequate.

All the more, mobile devices are no longer confined to work.  There is an entertainment element to smartphones these days.  The right ratio for mixture of work and entertainment is within the sphere of control for companies.  For individual mobile workers with a wide latitude, it's entirely up to personal habits and restraints.  But compared to laptops, I have to say with the exception of a few mobile dvices, most smartphones are not able to provide the same entertainment value as laptops.


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