What I'm about to articulate is probably going to sound like lunacy to most people at this point. But hey, in business, people who can accurately describe the current state of affairs are a dime a dozen. I want to see predictions for where things are headed. What is your business going to look like in five years? I've been thinking a lot about efficiency in the office and based on what I'm seeing, Windows could be in trouble.
An odd shift is happening in the office that kind of reminds me of what's happened to cameras and big, wired telephones. The old cliche of "the best camera to use is the one that's on you" seems to apply to computing in the business world. Everybody is assigned a big wired desktop phone, but nobody uses it. Also, everybody is assigned a big clunky laptop, but we're using them less and less. The more that business professionals are away from their desks, the more that they rely on their mobile phone as their digital hub. As we sit in conference rooms, visit customers, or handle issues at home, we increasingly are using our mobile phones as our primary device.
So if the mobile phone is becoming the digital hub, that means that Apple's iOS is at the top of the pecking order for thousands of managers and accountants, Apple users to whom their only exposure to Apple has been through their iPhones. If the iPhone isn't the dominant phone used in enterprise today, it will be soon. Anecdotally, the last four companies that I've worked with have all gone with iOS. From an overall market view, iOS is quickly replacing Blackberry while IT managers cast a dubious eye on Android with its security and fragmentation issues.
Apple's Trojan Horse
Like a frog placed in a pot of cool water that ended up cooked, over time the laptop has found itself as an accessory to the phone. It has been demoted to subordinate status. As good as the Surface Book appears, it's still running Windows, and that could be a liability. As the mobile phone increasingly becomes the Alpha Device in the business world, people will start to realize how much simpler everything would be if their tablet/computer was simply an extension of their phone with a larger screen. Currently, having a Windows laptop and an iPhone that don't speak to each other is the accepted norm because no one knows that there could be a better way. But every now and then, a product comes along that starts a stampede. I'm thinking of the Blackberry and iPhone. If people start showing up to meetings toting iPad Pros and using them as their primary device, we could have another major shift.
As I'm always fond of repeating, business people are device agnostic. They don't care who sells it if it makes them more efficient. That's why so many people in the nineties chose Windows laptops for their home use over Macs. They had learned the Windows OS in the workplace, and they could use the same software at home if they needed to. I can see a similar parallel happening in the very near future, only this time, it is iOS that is positioning itself as the cornerstone OS via the enterprise iPhones. And devices like the iPad Pro will be seen as the logical extensions of their primary device because they can run the same apps and integrate seamlessly.
And Windows is ripe for disruption. I dare say that over 95% of office workers don't know how to add a printer to their computer. Even less can map a drive. Maybe less then a tenth of a percent know how to go to MSCONFIG and whittle down all the programs that automatically launch on startup. And don't even ask what they do if they contract a virus. Let's just say that working in an office does not preclude emotional meltdowns. And I'm talking about people who've been using Windows for over twenty years. They don't understand it, they see it as unnecessarily complicated, and they would gladly leave it if they could.
The Rise of iOS
Enter an iOS powered iPad Pro. A device that runs the simple OS they love on their phone but with the power and screen big enough to get their work done. You can use it at your desk to do some real writing or take it to a conference room to jot down some notes. You could participate in a webcast from your car's driver's seat or read it while sitting in an auditorium. Does the boss have an emergency request at 8pm while you're watching Downton Abbey? No problem, you happen to have your main device in your lap anyway because you were live tweeting the season premier. But the best part is that it's running iOS. Screw adding printers, just AirPrint it. Don't ever map a drive again! Throw your slides on the big screen via AirDisplay. Integrate your calendars, notes, and to do lists with your iPhone. It all will look very, very, tempting.
Once the residents of cubicle land start to see iPad Pros in use, they will realize that they no longer have to put up with big heavy Windows laptops running a different OS from their main device. I'm going to predict that they will want to consolidate on iOS. It's happened before, when office workers consolidated on Windows, and it could happen again.
Even Apple's OS X would be in trouble here. Not that OS X has anything to lose because it is about as rare in corporate offices as smoking. It just would be seen as less desirable to iOS. It may integrate much better with an iPhone than Windows, but it's still not iOS—you can't get all the same apps that you are used to on your iPhone. In a world where the iPhone becomes the center of the digital solar system, an iOS-powered iPad Pro makes perfect sense. The world of enterprise is one where simplicity is valued almost to a fault, and supporting only one OS vs two makes a lot of sense. Don't listen to the tech journalists who think the iPad Pro is in trouble because it doesn't have a desktop-class operating system. These guys make their living chained to a desk with their keyboard. They would be the last group of people to recognize where the trends are headed with collaborative teams in a corporate environment.
So is the Surface Book going to be a big hit? I think it's a toss up at this point. If it had come out two years ago, it would have been a sure thing that would have transformed workplace computing as we know it. It would have cut off iOS at the pass and solidified its stranglehold on enterprise. But the pervasive use of iPhones in the workplace has made a real opening for Apple and IBM to enter phase two of their enterprise assault. Or perhaps enterprise will evolve into a bipolar world like mobile has with iOS and Android both prospering. Either way, the future is going to be better than the current state of affairs.
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