There are more smart phones in China than there are people in the United States. These are the kinds of factoids that are shared when talking about mobile strategy to spur conversations about why it is imperative for your company to “go mobile”. Mobility has been a consumer driven movement and not the enterprise. Many years ago before iPhones and iPads, Microsoft produced extremely weak and laughable mobility offerings into business. Windows was not lean and mean, and it ate batteries for breakfast. Apps that ran on Windows consumed resources left and right, sucking up memory and constantly banging on your hard drive. These devices were barely functional – they could run everything on the Microsoft platform, but barely and for not long unplugged. It couldn’t be adopted by business because it just didn’t work.
Fast forward a few years. Hardware and software is different and better. Apple has made touch phones and tablets fun and intuitive, and now expectations on how to interact with devices and apps have been elevated. Everyone is connected and has their collective noses planted into their favorite devices. Consumer centric services have emerged as tens of thousands of apps and have grown through Internet standards (email, web, RSS, etc.). Businesses refactored software they already made for the web to mobile apps to try to prevent competitors from getting a leg up. And now, these devices that we’ve grown quite fond of are carried right into the workplace.
Now that each employee is carrying smart phones and/or tablets into work, these devices are trying to be used for business productivity. There has been no displeasure from CIO’s about this – who wouldn’t be satisfied with their employees buying their own equipment with a constant flow of free hardware refreshes. Portable access to email and web are fantastic, but is this what we are now calling business productivity? Your phones and tablets have an unlimited supply of consumer apps, but really how are these devices helping me be more productive and a better worker? Each business is very different, and although email and web access is the lowest common dominator, making better workers requires smarter business apps. These are the apps we use every day in laptop/desktop form, and until today they have been relegated to these larger devices.
Hardware has become cheaper, better, and smaller despite Microsoft. Business is still running on Windows, and this is not changing anytime soon. Have you seen how many IBM mainframes are still being licensed? It is not because business loves big iron – they have made too much investment in these systems to make switching platforms a ridiculous proposition. The same is true about people’s desktops and laptops. So when your next hardware refresh comes, and it runs Windows 7 or 8, the form factor is very likely to be that of a tablet. You might still wish to carry your personal device that cannot be locked down and secured on your business network, but over time as more consumer centric tablet apps become available on Windows, there be less reason to do so. Everything we do on our big desktops or laptops will run on a tablet. We will have our smart business apps with us at all times, plus Angry Birds. This is why Microsoft, the turtle in this race, has hope.