07 August 2010

End-User Devices - iPads, Tablets, Smartphones - Oh My

With the convergence of technologies into smartphones and other devices like iPads people, it is becoming more likely enterprise IT organisations will need to deal with many different end-user devices. In many organisations there are people who are relatively "desk-bound" but many others move between their desks and various appointments, and there may be other portions of the workforce who don't have a desk and are involved in field work. All of these work environments may be supported by IT and where previously an organisation with a high percentage of field personnel may have highly specialised end-user devices with specialised applications running on them, now commercially available products with software development kits may meet the needs. Additionally, where it may have been cost-prohibitive to arm your partly mobile work force with end-user devices now people expect to be able to compute on the go.

I came across this article Ballmer (and Microsoft) still doesn't get the iPad, which looks at why the iPad has sold more units in the first 3 months then PC vendors sold tablets last year and the failure of Microsoft to understand the tablet or iPad-like market.

The article suggests Microsoft is stuck in the PC paradigm and they are looking to cram the PC into a tablet device, and are not taking into account why people use tablet devices. A number of the issues of cramming a PC onto a tablet come down to human machine interface (HMI). Using an application with a user interface which has been designed for a PC with a mouse (or other precise pointing device) and keyboard is difficult with a tablet.The iPad and the applications which run on it have designed their user interfaces to be used with fingers. Even though this user interaction style limits the capability of the device the device still meets many market needs and people purchase the device with these limitations in mind.

The article does think there is a market for more robust applications and a more “PC-like” capability in tablets but that a complete rewrite of the user interface for windows and the applications which run on the tablet would be required. An interesting question is will the PC tablet software vendors make the necessary user interface updates to capture a new market of people who want more from their tablet device? And what will this mean for enterprise IT organisations?