The biggest challenge for this CTO is convincing employees they still need a PC
Sesame Workshop CTO Noah Broadwater has a surprising challenge: some employees of the non-profit are so enamoured of their tablets and smartphones, he struggles to convince them that they still need a full PC.
Broadwater, who will speak at the one-day CITE Forum in New York on October 10, has overseen the Sesame Workshop's mobile transition from corporate-owned BlackBerries to a mixture of company-owned and employee-owned smartphones and tablets running a blend of iOS, Android, or Windows Phone. But some people want to go 100% mobile, and he has to deny them.
"Some stuff we're never going to put on something that mobile. It's too core to our business, and we don't want it to get out for security reasons." Broadwater cited financial information as an example.
In an interesting paradox, the popularity of tablets may actually cause the Sesame Workshop to speed up its PC replacement cycle. Employees are so used to lightweight tablets, their relatively new PCs suddenly feel clunky and out of date.
"Everyone is saying 'my laptop is eight pouonds or twelve pounds, it's too frigging heavy,'" Broadwater told us. "Last time, everyone needed optical discs, but nobody needs DVDs anymore. Our next rollout is a year away, and we're looking purely at Ultrabooks and Macbook Airs. We're also changing the way our leasing strategy works to make the refresh cycle faster. Current laptops work perfectly fine, but they feel like old technology."
If this cycle is repeated at other companies, it could spell good news for Microsoft and PC makers. Rather than replacing PC sales, the iPad and other tablets might spur a whole new generation of PC upgrades and shorten the upgrade cycle.
But Broadwater thinks that Microsoft may have hurt itself by forcing users into the new-style Windows 8 interface (formerly called Metro), even if they're on a laptop with a keyboard. The new-style interface is "nice for a phone, it's nice for a tablet, but when you get down to a modified tablet-laptop or an ultrabook, it doesn't work," says Broadwater, who has been working with a Windows 8 PC exclusively for a couple weeks.
If Microsoft sticks with its current plan of forcing laptop users into the new UI, Broadwater says he won't roll out Windows 8 on company-owned PCs, although he'll support it for users who want to bring their own.
That said, Broadwater loves the new Office 2013 suite on Windows 8, and is switching Sesame over to Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-based version of Office.
"If they put the Start menu back" into Windows 8, he says, "I'd be ecstatic."
Broadwater also gave us some details on how the Sesame Workshop implemented its mobile strategy. For instance:
In an effort to create a somewhat consistent user experience across the phone, tablet, and desktop, Microsoft has forced the tile metaphor on the desktop and not done a terribly good job of implementing it. They're going to have to do a lot more than make cosmetic changes before Windows 8 is usable on a non-touch device.
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