The PC Is Dead: Long Live The Mobile Device

Tablet PC

There has been quite a bit of hype this week around Apple’s sales figures for Q4 last year. They are, undoubtedly, a far cry from the rumours last year that Apple were about to face a big slump and that sales were slowing following the untimely death of Steve Jobs.

The figures are truly staggering Good Technology reported “that iPad accounted for 96 percent of tablets and iPhone 53 percent of Smartphones activated by the more than 2,000 companies using its services in the fourth quarter, giving iOS a 71 percent share of all mobile devices”. For me the important thing about this is not to notice ‘wow aren’t Apple great’ but more ‘wow Steve Jobs was right‘ we have now entered the post PC era.

Sales of PCs in the consumer market have been slumping for a while now whilst the uptake of both smartphones and tablets has sky rocketed, we now exist in an era where even getting a laptop out and firing it up for information is seen as too much effort. Instead, we reach for our phone or swipe the screen on our iPad.

The death knoll tools loudly when I see my nieces and nephews react with frustration when all technical devices do not react to touch, so used have they become to mobile devices that they simply cannot comprehend a world without mobility and touch.

This new user friendly era where technology is available to everyone irrespective of technical knowhow offers consumers access to computing almost anywhere and on many different kinds of device. What is becoming apparent is that now we in the enterprise market are starting to catch up. I simply cannot recall the last time I took a laptop to a meeting.

To be honest it’s been resigned to its docking station since I got my iPad. If, as Tom Dudderidge recently predicted, “we know that the PC is unlikely to be the primary computing device of the next generation of users coming through.” How should we in the enterprise react?

David Wagner at Enterprise Efficiency recently offered one solution suggesting it mattered not which device people used, be it smartphone or tablet, he proposed that “If the enterprise wants to serve the end user, they need to start seeing all the various devices their users have as PCs”. This I believe is a very short sighted view and is not the correct way to embrace enterprise mobility instead we in the enterprise need to consider the context in which each device is likely to be used and design appropriate interfaces for each.

For instance tablets are more likely to be used in meetings with lots of people around, perhaps for presentations, while laptops are used at desks with time to flip between screens and smartphones tend to be used completely on the road. This, to me, means that in each situation the data I need to see, the time I have to concentrate and the level of interaction required is completely different. This is where I believe reengineering business processes with mobile devices in mind rather than just presenting everything to the device comes into play.

If we simply present the exact same information in different screen sizes I believe adoption of the enterprise approved applications will be reduced, and employees will revert to downloading external apps to help them do their job better. This, for the enterprise is the true danger with mobility, what we need to do is acknowledge the fact that smartphones, tablets and whatever mobile device may come in the future, are not in fact PCs and that each has its pro its cons.

Then it is within this context we must design our applications and mobile strategy. This in turn means that enterprises need either the skills in house to develop for each mobile device and tablet or they must choose an application platform which allows enterprises to abstract themselves from the complications of coding for multiple devices and in turn allows the focus to be around presenting the right information to the right people at the right time on the right device.

Although accelerated by Apple, the post PC era will not be limited to the likes of the iPhone and iPad and forthcoming releases such as the Kindle Fire will ensure that tablets and smartphones continue to become driving forces for enterprise innovation. What remains to be seen now is who amongst us will truly embrace mobility and see it as a true business opportunity and who will simply pay it lip service while attempting to carry on as normal with smaller screen sizes.

David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.