Column: From the Trenches
From the April 2011 Issue
Is this the year of the Tablet? Has the mobile Internet finally arrived? What business purposes are served by using mobile Internet devices, and how can they help us serve clients better?
Whether you are working with products from Apple, Motorola, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung or a myriad of other providers, access to the Internet, and applications or “Apps” drive the mobile world. Today, you can use apps that give you access to paperless documents from your office, provide clarification of a business rule from a quick check of research, have the ability to take a note to jog an idea, or to take enough notes for an entire draft memo.
You can initiate a print job from anywhere to shared Internet printers, read a document that has been synchronized to the mobile device after being scanned, read books, publications, news sources, email, and consume content from almost any popular source. Apps make it possible to listen to and see news feeds, video conferences, record video, take and view pictures, and access multimedia content from Internet sources including office, home and public repositories. There are limitations, but most users now agree that the limitations are so few that a new age of mobility has arrived.
Devices that enable the mobile Internet, whether phones or tablets, are used for consumption of content. They may not be the most efficient data-entry devices, but they are probably sufficient for light duty entry. Sitting in your home, during a commute, at a client’s office or in a meeting with access to items you consider critical or convenient can be very enabling or distracting.
What is your plan?
You must first define your need. This is a fundamental rule for all good information technology systems. We each have responsibilities and tasks to complete. What would you like to be able to do when you are not at your desk and what do you have to do?
Next, you need to define the purpose of your mobile device. When cell phones first arrived, many were resistant to the idea of carrying a phone all of the time, and being too accessible. Cost, size, background noise and clarity of calls were all issues. Today, don’t we consider the cell phone a vital business tool that aides in convenience, safety, as well family and client communication and service?
Carrying only one mobile device would be preferred, but the limitations of screen size, speed and convenient keyboard entry make this particular goal questionable. Products like the Motorola Atrix are trying to overcome these objections by providing a docking station that is both a larger screen and a keyboard, while having dual processors in the phone itself. Others, like Steve Jobs from Apple, have backed larger screen sizes saying a 7-inch screen would be “too small to express the software.”
He said 10 inches was the minimum for a tablet screen. Maybe it is age or maybe it is just failing eyesight, but the small screen of a smartphone can be too restrictive to be productive. Yes, you can zoom the image in and out, but much time can be wasted with these activities. However, access to information may still be better than no access at all.
A phrase that has become popular over the last few years is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This is particularly true with smartphones and tablets. Starting with what you do know can make your business and personal activities easier, and other purposes will reveal themselves and evolve over time.
Choices, options and opinions
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is often used to launch new products, and tablets were dominant at this year’s show, as were supporting products for the iPad. The same has been true for cell phones in the past. You can find many opinions, summaries and marketing hype online from this show and other sources. Two mainstream efforts exist for mobile devices: Apple with its iPhone, iPad and IOS and the open source market supported by the Google Android operating system, often simply called Droid, supported by hardware players like Motorola, Samsung and HTC.