Whither the PC in a mobile, cloud world?

What is the PC, and has its death, as Mark Twain put it when asked to comment on reports of his demise, “been greatly exaggerated”? This key question, and the role of the PC device in powering a cloud-enabled mobile workforce animate a fourth document in the InsightaaS Viewpoint series, Collabmobilicloud: Empowering the End User.

Designed to examine the intersection of cloud, mobile and collaboration technologies, the Collabmobilicloud series has argued that from a user perspective, these technologies are merging to support productivity in an increasingly distributed workplace. In this framework, despite phenomenal innovation, the PC has often been viewed simply as an access device that allows the user to connect with the important items – cloud-based data and applications. Empowering the End User begins with the proposition that the PC is just that – a ‘personal computer’ that has taken on many form factors to address a wide variety of personal tastes, and that can be configured in various ways to support a multiplicity of business use cases. This view of the device is supported by several data points – for example, the ownership of a growing number of devices per mobile user, which suggests that increasing tablet or smartphone usage is likely to augment rather than displace the PC.

In this multi-device world, neglect of the end point has unappealing consequences, a point that is reinforced in the document through discussion of Techaisle Research into BYOD and associated security risk. According to Techaisle, the share of user owned devices in a work environment ranges from a third to just under a half, depending on the size of the organization, but of greater concern is the mingling of personal and corporate activities on these devices. And as Dell/Intel Evolving Workforce global research for 2014 has found, though 54 percent of companies now allow BYOD, only 27 percent of them secure personal devices. But beyond security risk, the device matters from a productivity perspective: connectivity costs and other logistical requirements, data residency, latency issues and cloud network security challenges all factor into the notion that in certain circumstances, local processing of data is preferable to cloud interaction.

Ultimately, Empowering the User argues that ill-informed assumptions about device utility translate into failure to take advantage of increasingly sophisticated mobile device capabilities, or to realize the true productivity potential of the collabmobilicloud shift. To illustrate, the document considers device deployment in two case studies: upgrade from a Mac environment to Dell Precision mobile workstations equipped with NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics cards by video production and event management company, Sparksight; and the deployment of Dell’s line of Rugged notebooks in remote customer locations across North America and the Arabian Gulf by Toronto-based system integrator New Vision Systems (NVS) Canada. When supported by cloud applications, these device deployments offer impressive productivity gains: far faster rendering speeds, and the ability to process image files in the field for video producer Sparksight, and New Vision’s ability to meet the mobility demands of customers in areas such as emergency medical services or firefighting who would simply not be able to operate in harsh conditions without rugged features.

As the Techaisle research outlined in the figure below shows, productivity improvements are the primary benefit of mobile work styles, an abstract concept that is familiar if not well explained. But with the help of case studies, the “hard dollar” ROI – “data wrangling more than 100 high resolution images and 10 HD videos while the video shoot was in progress” by the Sparksight team, and reduced breakage rates for NVS customers in addition to “soft dollar benefits” such as a field worker’s ability to use a single, cloud-enabled device as opposed to transferring data back and forth between field and office devices come into better focus. In both cases, the end result was the company’s ability to reposition within their target markets – the consummate productivity benefit.

Techaisle - mobile productivity
Click to view. Source: Techaisle survey of 848 US SMBs. © 2015

The full Collabmobilicloud: Empowering the End User Viewpoint document can be accessed here.

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