Donkeys, Horses and Zebras, Oh my!

by Brian Katz on December 19, 2012 · 0 comments

In the last week there have been a bunch of posts talking about mobile and whether it is here yet and if it is really needed in work. On the one side you have the Editor/Publisher/blogger, Henry Blodget, who shows the cubicle photo with desktops and laptops and big screen monitors (to be fair it is a newsroom) who complains that Mobile screens are too small and they are for consumption only. On the other side you have the blogger/consultant, Benjamin Robbins, who has decided to go mobile only for an entire year and creates and consumes on his device. The problem is that they’re both trying to figure out whether we have moved from donkeys to horses when they’re really looking at a Zebra.

Let’s take a look at this from both sides first. To the Editor/Publisher, of course you have laptops and desktops with giant monitors. You’re in the publishing industry and you want to see as much of the page as you can. You’re trying to maximize the usage of that page for ads, slideshows and maybe even a little content. Let’s be fair here, it’s sort of like newspaper layouts, you want to be able to see the whole picture and design it down to the pixel. You did leave out the part where most of your content contributors may not even be in that newsroom and all they really need is a word processor of some type and then the ability to email it in. Do they care if they are using a tablet screen…I doubt it. Even better, when they need to because they are in the field, they can probably type the whole story in their smartphone. People have been doing it for years starting with the Blackberry. Mobile as you define isn’t just for content consumption. Despite the fact that you’re looking at the donkey pulling things slowly across your newsroom, when they get smacked in the ass, they can move awfully quickly.

The blogger/consultant on the other hand, took up a challenge 9 months ago to go an entire year on just a mobile device. He spent time picking out the right thoroughbred and was willing to spend the money to make sure that it could gallop along. He bought a large screen monitor and an external keyboard as well as a dock for his phone (and a bunch of doohickey connectors), well really his phablet (large phone small tablet). When he sits down in his office he docks his phablet and he’s working on the big screen with a regular keyboard and mouse. Life isn’t much different then when he had a computer except he’s a little limited in the multitasking area and he has to use substitute programs sometimes. Then, when he decides to go out, his thoroughbred really shines. He undocks and takes his desktop with him. He can be productive where ever he is and he even sprung for a foldable Bluetooth keyboard when he doesn’t want to use the screen for typing. He found a device that he could do his work from, run his business, create short movies and just have with him all the time. When you spend the time and money on the right racehorse and invest in the proper trainers to get it to run well…you’re going to win some races.

Donkeys and horses, the problem is when you concentrate on a small part of what is out there, you miss the zebra and end up looking like a jackass. Mobile is all the things that both of them want and love. It is a great consumption device and it is a great creation device. Yet all they are doing is looking at the trees and missing the forest. This is the same thing that many businesses do. They allow BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) for their employees or they buy them a bunch of COPE (Corporate Owned Personally Enabled) devices. They don’t spend the time to figure out what the employees should be doing with the devices or enabling them. You see, Mobile isn’t really about the device that you carry around or being able to displace a laptop or desktop. Mobile, as we know it today, is just the interim state of always connected computing. People aren’t going to be carrying around phones for the next 30 years; they are going to be communication devices that are always on. You might have a screen like a phone, tablet or laptop, or it could be information that is projected on a contact lens. You wouldn’t be necessarily using a keyboard, you may use voice or just your thoughts to activate and input information into the device. In a lot of ways, it isn’t really one device, but connected computing; where that piece of the computing that is always with you integrates depend upon your environment and surroundings. It understands context and calls you the cab for the appointment you have next on your calendar because it realizes you left to late to walk there. Your identity becomes easier to prove because you are connected to the computing in the first place. You’re no longer worrying about creation or consumption, you’re using tools that have been designed to adapt to the situation and allow you to be productive, whether at work or in your personal life. You’re now in the herd of Zebras, no longer thinking about donkeys and horses.

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