By Carl Weinschenk
With Steve Kleynhans, vice president of META Group.The American workplace will reach an important milestone in 2006, according to META Group, when less than half of corporate employees will use a desktop computer as their primary information device.
This interview originally appeared in the IT Business Edge weekly report on "Empowering a Mobile Workforce." To see a complete listing of IT Business Edge weekly reports or sign up for this free technology intelligence agent, visit www.itbusinessedge.com.
Question: Is technology making it easier for workers to seamlessly toggle between wired and wireless networks?
Kleynhans: It's critical for IT planners to monitor closely the kinds of changes that are on the horizon in the end-user space. All the IT services they deliver ultimately are about services and end users. They don't do it for the sake of IT. We are increasingly pressured to find ways to improve services to match users better—lifestyle, work style, nature of their jobs—and at the same time deliver greater value to the company by empowering new work models. In today's market, people are increasingly feeling pressure—whether for good or bad—to provide more rapid responses to changes in business and other events. Wireless and mobile technologies play a critical role in enabling users to do that. IT groups need to understand where wireless and mobile technology fit in, not just for obvious people in the organization, [such as] the road warrior groups, but for all of the information workers and a larger portion of the operations workers. Tying people down to desktops will become less and less effective as we move into the second half of the decade.
Question: Deploying wireless on top of wireline adds incremental costs. Is that a big problem?
Kleynhans: I don't think that's necessarily an insurmountable obstacle for any organization. I think wireless and mobility certainly increase overall support costs. But how much they do so is something that shrinks as companies get more and more familiar with mobile and they start building it into their standard end-user support process. So the delta between mobile and desktop is starting to shrink. It's never going to go to zero. Most companies find in their analyses that the benefits they reap for most workers for making them mobile certainly outweigh additional cost. The situation will only improve over time.
Question: So the bottom line is that wireless is a potent productivity tool?
Kleynhans: The overall report [shows] we are moving from a one-size-fits-all, stick-them-with-a-PC model to something a little more broad, where the device or collection of devices the user will get is fit to their specific needs and work style. So [the report] also discusses blade PCs and thin client devices and how we are going to see a bit of a rise in usage of that technology in the next couple of years, which will also eat into traditional PC usage. Our belief is a one-size-fits-all [mentality] results in a one-size-fits-none reality.