by September 5, 2011 0 comments











Andy
Mulholland, CTO, Capgemini

I
wrote this post in anticipation of the 30th birthday of
the PC in August with the accompaniment of various articles and posts
about this pretty momentous occasion. Momentous because the
‘personal’ element was the beginning of a really genuine shift in
the way we work, leading to the ‘consumerization of IT’ as we
term much of today’s changes. That is a path that has led us from
expensive hardware limiting its use to enterprises, large expensive
projects, extremely structured processes, and proprietary licensed
software to, well what?

Little
did I know that a day after I had written it the news would be full
of HP announcing that they were spinning off their PC business as it
was no longer a key technology in their hardware manufacturing
business. I hurriedly wrote a new post for last week questioning
whether ‘the
wheels
had come off the PC business’
and dwelling on HP’s
shift in positioning and strategy. Frankly, the rest of this piece
comes up pretty well aligned to these changes last week so from here
on it’s the original piece starting with the answer to the question
as to what and where the path from the PC is or has led us…

The
answer is a relatively large range of low cost technology devices
that increasingly all interact through a wireless connection with the
Internet to reach a range of content and services that redefines
personalization, and indeed the phrase ‘service’ itself. Though
it’s not part of this blog, consider for a moment the ubiquitous
GPS in cars; the latest TomTom units are remarkable not just for what
they can do in terms of real-time information on anything from
traffic to parking, but for what they cost, and the opportunity they
give businesses and users to ‘do business together’ in new ways
around location, timing and events. The owner/user receives a new
level of capabilities and personalization that changes their view of
‘travel’.

It’s
the same with the user’s view of work; as I have said in previous
posts, work is an activity today and a place. We work in real-time
interactions with people, events and locations, and just like the GPS
we have increasingly powerful tools on hand to do so. So what and how
has the executive power user redefined ‘personal computing’
already and how will a steadily increasing number of power users
expect to be supported over the coming years?

It’s
not just a simple adoption of tablets, nor even a battle between
smartphones, tablets and PCs (and it’s certainly not only about
access to enterprise IT applications either). Today’s power users
will have all three devices, with personal ownership mixed with
enterprise ownership, and are increasingly likely to have more than
one of each as well, i.e. a home PC as well as a work PC. I have a
lot of colleagues who fit this definition today and use all of their
devices at different times and want effective synchronization in
relative real-time between all of them. The
term
user-centric computing is coming into use to define the
resulting environment
.

When
I travel a smartphone will be conveniently hooked to my belt allowing
me to do simple things in a timely way e.g. keep an eye on messages
and email, see a map and travel itinerary, etc. In the office during
the working day I need more, in particular I need to refer to
documents in meetings, make notes, look up information, find optional
answers to events as circumstances occur and, of course, the tablet
with its form factor, capability and long wireless life is ideal.
Back at my desk for some parts of the day then it’s the PC for the
heavy duty personal creative work, such as writing this blog, or
checking the spreadsheet on the budget and amending, but most of all
this is where enterprise applications are used as these represent the
structured part of the working day.

At
home it may be back to the PC for some evening or weekend catching up
on core activities but whereas the desktop or notebook enterprise PC
is likely to be Windows, the chances are that power users are on
Apple for their personal machines, or even a Linux variant. Maybe
that doesn’t matter too much if the only enterprise service is
email and a calendar, and the same goes for their personal tablet and
smartphone, or does it? Actually it does because the pattern of work
is changing and the power users are heavy users of Web 1.0-based
content, Web 2.0-based people-to-people social tools and now
cloud-based process services, as much or more than enterprise
applications. I have a printed copy of a study from three years ago
that shows that for nine common business roles only 7% of their work
on average is on transactional enterprise applications. Put another
way, a huge part of a power user’s personal value is around
real-time decision making, events, collaboration, etc. to solve
problems and optimize opportunities and most, if not all, of that is
going to happen off the enterprise desktop PC.

More
importantly that key point about device/work synchronization is going
to happen around the user and their devices externally using browser
cloud technology, and not internally around the data model of
enterprise applications using client-server technology. An Apple user
achieves the synchronization today seamlessly and automatically with
Apple iCloud, (could this be why Apple doesn’t seem concerned about
enterprise sales as their technology is user-centric and not
enterprise-centric? Then there was the newly launched HP webOS that
aimed to provide the same common experience for HP PCs,
tablets and smartphones, or what about the Google model using Android
and Chrome to power a huge range of devices, or soon the Microsoft
option of Windows 8?

All
the companies have user-centric retail operations and are pushing to
make their products as attractive as possible to the user as the
potential buyer, and adding features to support their way of using
the products, though Microsoft and HP have a clear corporate side to
their offerings too. Against this background could you make an
enterprise choice and manage clearly through it? You could but it
looks unlikely that you could make it stick for more than one or two
of the devices a user has, and even then you can’t mandate how they
are used in the same ways as internal desktops. It’s time to do
some serious planning about shifting from a desktop strategy and
refresh cycle, to a user’s strategy and policy approach. With the
Apple iPad outselling all other tablets combined by a factor of eight
to one and HP unable to make any impact on this market it seems that
the users have already chosen their devices, and it wasn’t with any
corporate management capabilities in mind!

Oh
and the headline? No doubt you saw the many reports on the interview
with Dr Mark Dean, one of the original creators of the first fully
functional PC, the IBM 5150, in which he described the PC’s days as
being numbered. Actually, if you read the whole of his blog
and not just the instant headlines then the important comment is as
follows, and for me it offers a strong definition of ‘user-centric’
computing:

PCs
are being replaced at the center of computing not by another type of
device — though there’s plenty of excitement about smartphones
and tablets — but by new ideas about the role that computing can
play in progress. These days, it’s becoming clear that innovation
flourishes best not on devices but in the spaces between them, where
people and ideas meet, and interact.


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