Beyond the Chasm

clip_image002Laurence Hart recently warned on his excellent Word-of-Pie blog that we should not count the PC out too soon. He pointed out in the title that “Mobile Devices Sell Faster and Die Sooner”, a sentiment I agree with, but I would tack on “for now.” I would also add that a lot of those devices don’t die, they are handed down to other people, the way we used to handle laptops.

I had just returned from my trip to the AIIM Conference in San Francisco, which I extended by four days with a family visit in beautiful Iowa when I read @Pieword’s post. It struck me that during those 9 days of travel, I had used my laptop less than 6 hours, while I lost track of how often I was using my iPad. I think that is worth noting because I am an IT guy who never travels without a laptop.

I carry my laptop with me, always, because the responsibilities of my job include maintenance and support for the in-house applications that I developed, maintenance of our company website and the possible need to use some desktop applications that only run under Windows. However, since none of those things occurred, my laptop mainly stayed in the bag. I did use it to place 2 Lync calls to a coworker, and I used it to practice my PowerPoint presentation. AIIM supplied the hardware for the presentations during the conference, so my laptop never had to leave the hotel room. I could have placed those Lync calls on my iPhone, and I could have easily practiced my presentation from my iPad, I chose the laptop because, for the moment, it’s familiar.

In his book “Crossing the Chasm” author Geoffrey Moore talks about the technology adoption lifecycle and the work by Everett Rogers and others. It is from this work that we have the expression “early adopters”. Moore explores what he describes as a chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. I don’t know how Messer’s Moore and Rogers would describe tablet and smartphone adoption, but I think we are beyond the chasm on both. Oh sure, I’m surrounded by people clinging to their laptops, but a lot of them would rather use their iPad, and I will help them get to that point. The people most loyal to the complete PC model are the ones whose work day involves processing transactions or reporting on the transactions processed in our organization. These folks are using those applications that we developed, and those applications are not iPad ready – nor will they be anytime soon. Ironically, these were the first people in our organization to get computers of any sort, but the last people to get laptops. Other users, the ones who travel often and need the ability to stay connected to the mother ship, create content and give presentations, have been carrying laptops since before they were an affordable solution. I can remember a day when people preferred desktop computers because you could swap hard drives, add memory and install add-on cards with ease compared to a laptop. Desktops were more powerful and more versatile which meant that only travelers chose laptops, and they did it for the convenience.

Laptops grew to equal the power of business desktops several years ago, or they simply got beyond the point where it mattered; I can’t remember the last time, I ran out of disk space before retiring my computer. Frankly, I see the same trend today; tablets are becoming as good as laptops, or they are getting good enough to the point of it not mattering. For example, I use the App Photogene on my iPhone and iPad to edit digital pictures; I use Adobe Creative Suite on my laptop. For most of my photo editing work, Photogene does the job. The other way to look at that is to point out that I use very little of Photoshop’s rich feature set. The same can be said of my use of Microsoft Office, and I honestly think I use more features of Creative Suite and Office than most people I know. While my iPad will continue to encroach on my laptop’s capability, my laptop is stuck in a bigger-is-better model. I use Photogene instead of PhotoShop, because I can take the photo, edit the photo, email the photo and post the photo to Facebook from the same device. In fact, I can do ALL those things from within Photogene! My laptop tries to lure me in with the promise of better software, but increasingly, I find that I don’t need what it has to offer. Contrast the meager benefits with the fact that I have to carry a power brick, find a place to rest the laptop and wait forever for the thing to boot up, and it’s game-set-match iPad.

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