Surface has been a stiff so far, but Microsoft reportedly has big expectations for its next fiscal year. Here's why the company may not be crazy.
Here's what the "mobile-only" workforce will actually look like
More commonly, employees have a set of tasks to accomplish, and they do them sequentially, with bursts of email or web surfing in between. For these folks, today's mobile platforms are perfectly fine -- as long they have all the programs these workers need. And the application gap is closing rapidly thanks to the rise of cloud-based productivity services, which are available from any platform with a web browser, and the explosion in mobile app development. Virtualization can take care of any laggards that absolutely require an older operating system.
Apart from jobs that require multitasking, the other holdouts against a mobile-only workplace would be jobs that require resource-intensive software, like architects and mechanical engineers using CAD programs, audio and video engineers, or financial analysts using complicated Excel spreadsheets with tons of macros.
But Moore's law and its corollaries march on. It's a safe bet that the tablets and smartphones of 2017 will be more powerful than the high-end workstations of today. As that happens, mobile platforms will embrace multitasking -- there won't be any reason not to -- and the few remaining differences between "PC" and "mobile device" will gradually disappear. Microsoft, for its part, already seems to be betting on this convergence, and is trying to remain relevant by positioning Windows as the one operating system for all types of devices.
So it's certainly possible to imagine a totally "mobile" workforce in 2017. Instead of swapping between multiple computers, tablets, and a smartphone, workers could carry a single personally owned device that plugs into docks or connects wirelessly to whatever monitor they choose.
That means the office of tomorrow will probably look a lot like the office of today, with workers staring at big monitors and typing on keyboards. But instead of a laptop or big old CPU tower on each desk, the whole thing could be powered by personal smartphones, tablets, or something in between.
Brandon Porco, the chief technologist for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, says that IT will have to try lots of different things and move quickly to keep abreast of evolving employee needs. "Google has it very well-patterned: Launch and iterate."
Although Apple is often accused of not being an enterprise company, it's only in the last few years that Apple has abandoned its enterprise-oriented products. The real story may be that Apple's discovered that making enterprise-focused efforts simply don't deliver a huge return on investment.
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The open-source Arduino platform has helped tinkers make robots and controllers. At the Maker Faire last weekend, Arduino leader Massimo Banzi unveiled a new effort to help connect Arduino devices to the Internet.