The Smartphone/iPad Future, or Why Office Workers Don’t Get It

Today, I got a chance to play with the iPad. And while I can understand the hype, and certainly the paradigm shift of sorts that’s happening around mobile/connected computing, I’m not yet willing enough to throw in the towel on my smartphone (after all, its starting to learn me a bit).

I would like to have life around me change a bit though now that tablets, smartphones, and networks are more than capable of being virtual offices though. And its this idea that I think is sorely missing – or neglected – on the side of many office workers and the companies which attempt to manage them.

Let’s say (for example), that I’m a project manager. Most of my tasks include facilitating discussions between those in the technical trenches (developers) and the executive clouds (business units, executives, and stakeholders). In all reality, I don’t do as much with creating content as much as I do in brokering it to manageable levels depending on who needs to see it. For that, do I really need a workstation? Do I need to be in a cubical/office? Or, is the idea of productivity and presence something that needs to adjust to the reality of the tools that I have.

I have a smartphone. Therefore, I can be notified via voice, text, audio, or even video towards changes happening within the project. These communication events only dictate that I need to be (a) available and (b) connected to some source of information – usually a corporate server.

On the other side of that, I’ve got an iPad. Definitely something larger than a smartphone, and designed more for consumption than for productivity. From this device I can manage workflows, and do some light editing for content in either a siloed application (iWork, Word/Excel/PPT, etc.) or on the web connected to an enterprise web app (hello HTML5). In this case, my office is no more a physical desk, but a virtual one. And because my client and company have agreed on me working the project, both have authenticated my iPad (or similar tablet) to connect with the needed information on both servers.

Office life does not work like this today. And this is one of the reasons why I can say that its not the tech anymore that’s holding anyone back, but behaviors and the understanding of the tools available.

To be frank, I get to see this lack of tools knowledge first hand all the time. Which is one of the reasons why I think this post is probably not going to be taken as well. Part of that “generation of users who grew up with computers” is that there’s a number of them who were burnt or burnt-out along the way. And so that initiative towards learning the tools which would better fit their work/professional lives tends to get tossed aside for familiar and antiquated behaviors and tasks. And this is a shame. Much of what we have available today would off-load a lot of excess that we do if we were to self-learn these tools.

Its hard as all get out to keep up with what works and what doesn’t. We weren’t taught how to read at a high level to understand and apply trends analysis towards these tools. We were usually taught some rewards-based system, which didn’t so much teach the tool, as much as it taught some centered way of looking at it.

Today, I got a chance to play with the iPad. And while I can understand the hype, its going to take Moses breaking one of these across a few folks heads for them to get that they aren’t in Egypt anymore. I’ll be recording the event on my smartphone for posterity – while sending yet another SMS ok-ing funds to be transferred for doing some work to a website that will be seen by others who are out and about enjoying life and family a bit more.