Tablet vs. PC: Let your data decide

Will tablets replace the PC?  Will the Microsoft Surface tablet cut into iPad market share?  Will the broader mobile computing space replace what we know of a desktop and notebook computer?  These are questions I’m asked many times a day, and there isn’t a clear answer.  Most no longer believe it’s a question of if it will happen, but when.  The discussion usually reveals personal preferences and opinions on Microsoft, or Google, or Apple.  Most of the time, the final question is “can I get one?”

While everyone can’t get every type of device, it’s no longer realistic to think we in IT can use the old line of “they are not standard” and get away with it.  There is a monumental shift happening towards the cloud, mobile and tablets.  If IT isn’t delivering the solutions, your business partners will go elsewhere to get it. 

However, these new technologies shouldn’t be different from how IT has introduced other technology shifts in the past.  If we focus on how people need to work and their business needs, the technology decisions will be simple and hopefully apparent.  This time there is a difference because IT must move very fast or the shift will happen without us.  We’re all aware of the issues related to stability, risk, and security of going this fast, which are fair and real concerns.  The answer is fairly simple, which is to move fast yet accept we will make investments in security to ensure a safe environment.

While change is happening with or without us, IT still needs to manage it the proper way to ensure it’s done in a stable and secure way.  The questions around tablets and vendors eventually will happen, but we all must make sure we don’t break our companies in the process.  Make sure as you evaluate what to do, you don’t destroy the reputation you created by focusing on the business needs first.  That’s right, it still applies!  We must all focus on business needs first, then business process, then information, and only finally the technology and vendors. 

It’s different this time around because of the consumerization of technology, which is pushing consumer grade devices into the enterprise.  And while we all want to embrace it, and make it work, we need to do it the right way.  With this in mind, we should all remind ourselves this is not about the operating system or even the applications, it’s all about getting business information everywhere.

Of course the tablet and mobile computing in general will continue to take market share from the PC.  Not because the hardware is great, but because people need the information.  There are now some fantastic applications available which is driving the solutions to be great.  These apps give us unprecedented access to the information in our companies.  The tablet and touch interface force a simple user interface, which in turn helps to solve the age-old issue that we only access a fraction of the information that’s available.  We are definitely accessing more and more information every day! 

Let’s make sure we continue to focus on the information needs, and applications needed to deliver it, and then last the technology.  The tablet phenomenon will continue, mobile computing will keep expanding like crazy, and the PC will continue for a long time to come. 

The key for IT is to not let the excitement of a new technology to drive us away from doing what the business needs.  Let the information drive the decision!

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