This man did all his work from a smartphone for one year -- here's what he learned

Credit: Benjamin Robbins

A year ago, Benjamin Robbins decided to do all his work from a smartphone for one year. No PC, no tablet. Just a Samsung Galaxy Note.

Along the way, the cofounder of software consulting firm Palador wrote and posted videos about his experiences on his personal blog, the Enterprise Mobility Forum site, and The Guardian.

So now the experiment is over, Robbins is excited to go back to his PC for his daily work, right?

Nope.

In an interview with CITEworld, Robbins explained, "Humans are very much creatures of habit. I formed habits around mobility that I can't really imagine going away from. The first few weeks [of going mobile-only] were definitely tough, but everything's changing and moving at such a fast pace, the capabilities are expanding so fast, I can't imagine going back to a PC as my primary device."

Most important, he became accustomed to getting results for his customers quickly, without ever having to make excuses. "I was never in a situation where I said 'I'll get back to you when I get back to office' .... That's gone from my lexicon." 

The early days were a challenge, though. For him, the hardest thing was getting used to the lack of an accessible file system. He advises anybody considering following his path to think really hard about where you're going to store files and how you're going to move big files around.

"I ended up relying heavily on Box and Dropbox," he said. "In my PC life -- this is an enterprise thing -- I used SharePoint a lot. SharePoint has not made the jump very well to mobile." He said that SharePoint always struck him as having been built by and for developers, not for end-users, and it was built largely around Active Directory, Microsoft's domain controller. "Mobile has really blown that out of water. Not that [AD] doesn't exist, and that you don't still need those boundaries, but lots of projects involve people outside of Palador. Mobility is changing how we work with people."

He also agrees with early Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée that eventually Apple -- and other mobile vendors  -- will have to do more to expose the file system to users.

For instance, he sometimes had to log into a virtual desktop to access Visio files, as there's no good Visio equivalent for Android. (He used Xtralogic's remote desktop client to log on.)  Then he had to figure out how to move those files around. "Because I was thinking mobile, I had a strategy for that. But if you're not, if you're just storing files on file systems and network shares -- doing what people have been doing for last 20 years -- there's a shift there. The file system is a challenge."

The other thing he missed was seeing the contents of multiple apps and browser tabs at the same time, although he admits that multitasking is actually not very efficient. "As much as we like to think we're great multitaskers, we're actually terrible, and there's plenty of research to support it...But what I missed was keeping an audit trail of my thought patterns." 

For him, the ideal computer would be a device that can plug into displays of multiple sizes, with a keyboard where it makes sense. 

"This use case would be awseome: I'm using my phone as a phone, then when I come in and connect it -- wirleessly or wired or whatever -- to a monitor, it knows. It adjusts the resolution. It knows whether I'm using a single monitor or multi monitors, and adds capabilities beyond cloning the screen." To him, ideas like Dell's Project Ophelia or Microsoft's Windows To Go seem like steps in the right direction, but imagine the "computer" being the smartphone itself rather than a USB stick.

So what's next? He's probably going to take a shot at living with a small tablet or phone-tablet hybrid, like the iPad mini, Nexus 7, or Galaxy Note 8. 

"And yes," he says, "I'd hold it up to my head to make calls." 

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