Mobility

iPhone making laptops obsolete in the enterprise?


Given all the hype regarding the iPhone and the other next-generation handheld mobile devices lately, one would think that the days of the laptop are numbered. However, I tend to disagree and perhaps my disagreement has to do with my age — you can decide.

I have handled a number of handheld mobile devices and while they all offer some pretty cool features I find them lacking when it comes to doing real work. I currently carry a BlackBerry (not by choice - I would choose a different handheld) and while I find it very handy for reading e-mail and corresponding in short sentences, I certainly would not want to compose the Gettysburg Address on it. Frankly, my fingers are not dexterous enough to press keypad buttons at the speed that I type.

I also find Web browsing on it or similar devices to be less than satisfying. Again, it serves the purpose in a pinch while on the road or off site, but I like a bigger picture than what I get from a handheld mobile device. I'm not in bifocals yet; however, I don't look forward to tiny displays when I finally get there.

This is not to say that I am anti-handhelds, and I certainly want  laptops to continue to "think thin," but for real work on the road, I still find a laptop hard to beat. Of course, this is coming from a person who thinks playing first person shooters using a game pad is lame, and I roll my eyes when people get excited because they can play Ms. Pac-Man on their handheld — whoopee!

So perhaps I am jaded and not "with it." I would be more excited if Sony announced that their UX390N had a faster processor, more memory capacity, and a lower price tag than I would be about new iPhone or Motorolla Q  features.

The Micro PC to me is a much more useable device than a handheld and has the potential for more real "work." I can see myself at a meeting taking notes on the UX390N using a Bluetooth keyboard or even its own keyboard (I have used a UX280P). I can see myself working on a spreadsheet at dinner while on the road with a Micro PC or creating a PowerPoint presentation, but not with a handheld — even if the handheld is running full blown Windows and Office.

So what keeps me from doing it? Price. I can't justify the price for a Micro PC when I can take the same money and buy a very nice laptop — one capable of running more than Ms. Pac-Man when I have time for entertainment and one that I can actually "work" on when I need to do so.

Or perhaps I am mixing apples and oranges (no pun intended), and I should not compare an oversized phone to a laptop? They were designed for two different things were they not? Yet there is no denying that there is a certain convergence happening in the mobile computing space. So am I being shortsighted in not joining the iPhone bandwagon and hoping that Micro PCs or Tablet PCs get the attention they deserve, or should I believe that computing on a two-inch screen is the future and just suck it up?

In the short run, I do not see busy IT travelers leaving their laptops at home or the office if they are headed out of town to do some serious work. They will be packing both their handheld device AND their laptop. In the long run, however, one has to wonder if handheld devices are going to get larger or laptops are going to get smaller. I would like to carry one device that is the size of a Micro PC with its power, but at a price near that of a handheld. That would be an enterprise device worth standing in line for!

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