A former colleague, still working for Microsoft, commented on a tweet about one of my iPad Pro reviews today. He (somewhat predictably) ‘encouraged’ me to get a ‘real’ device. The Microsoft Surface Pro.
— Jeff Alexander (@jeffa36) May 26, 2016
I responded with a baited hook about the superiority of the iPP, which (again predictably) he took. Hilarity ensued.
Don’t get me wrong. The Surface Pro, v4, is a good computer. Damned expensive for the model that has any real functionality. Like double the price of the iPad Pro. And don’t compare the ‘speeds and feeds’ on Windows you need more processing power for all the processes that keep running in the background. But it is a good computer nonetheless. A great one even.
But it’s still a PC. And the world has moved on. Period.
One of Jeff’s taunts was for me to speak to him when I had ‘real’ work.
@Rog42 when you need to do "real work" let us know..
— Jeff Alexander (@jeffa36) May 27, 2016
Which is when it hit me…
Quite apart from him being a salaried Microsoft evangelist, i.e. It’s his job to evangelise Microsoft products (easy with something as good as the Surface tbh), his whole perspective, Microsoft’s whole perspective, is that ‘real’ work is something you do on a PC. Something you need a PC to do.
But I don’t. And, actually, I rather consider my work is as ‘real’ as anyones’.
— Rog42 (@Rog42) May 27, 2016
Components of Work?
Much like many ‘Information Workers’ my work entails some routine administrative tasks including expenses and timesheets, travel bookings and the like. All of these have mobile apps for Android and iOS. I don’t even bother with these on the iPad, my iPhone does the job.
Checking in for flights and hotels, including lounge and room access, again on the iPhone.
As you’d expect a lot of my work revolves around messaging, and I average about 60 – 120 emails per day. I deal with these on both the phone and tablet. The large screen, long battery life, constant connectivity, and awesome keyboard of the iPP make this a better device than any laptop, Surface or no. We use Microsoft Office365, so I don’t have any storage issues, and never a need for a USB drive.
Yes my work does entail ‘office productivity’ previously the domain of the PC:
As a Chief Technologist I’m constantly working on large proposals and whitepapers, mostly MS Word documents, sometimes with Excel spreadsheet financial models. Again the MS apps on iOS are great for these. But even before this was true, there were many alternatives that read and write these documents in native format.
Then there’s presentations. Personally, after 20 years of Powerpoint domination, I prefer Keynote on iOS (but not on OSX). Nevertheless, I enjoy Powerpoint on iOS now too. And no amount of animations, full screen pictures, nor embedded video, even online polls, is too much for the iPad. Indeed both the touch and pencil access on the iPP make this an awesome device to create, deliver, and annotate presentations.
There are a bunch of internal websites with sales and delivery collateral that I can’t access with the iPad unless I’m in the office. And some even when I am in the office. That’s a legacy of IE6 websites. Sigh. But as we shift work to the cloud, and O365, these are far and few between.
I also collaborate online. We use Skype for Business (formerly known as Lync) but I prefer both Zoom.us and Join.us. All of them work great on the iPad.
But my ‘real’ work is not about documents, or even presentations. It’s about influence. Interviews. Consulting. Sometimes educating. Definitely innovating. My work isn’t done when my inbox is empty (I wish), and it doesn’t begin with a document to write or edit. Technology is simply a tool. Documents simply a record, or one of many channels of communication. I don’t get paid for producing MS Office files, or even contributing to them. In the same way a pilot doesn’t get paid for filing a flight plan. We both have to do that as part of the job, sure, but that’s not the job.
And even if it were, you simply no longer need a full PC, with expensive processor, weight, fan, that needs LAN connectivity (WiFi rather than LTE) to do that. Not anymore. We live in a Post-PC world.
This week I’m facilitating envisioning workshops with a healthcare agency about the digital hospital and integrated care system of the future. The reality of how PC’s are constraining ‘real’ work is evident. Clinicians are held back by tethered PC’s with peripherals like mice and keyboards that get in the way of capturing information where and when they need it. We need to move beyond this to mobile devices, with natural and intuitive interfaces, to truly enable healthcare.
Recently the headmaster of a Sydney Grammar school published in a national newspaper his opinion that computers were a waste of time in class. Whilst I fervently disagree with him; my position is that education needs to change as technology enables us; I do agree that the architecture of the PC doesn’t lend itself to teaching. It’s not mobile enough, not intuitive enough, not connected enough. Too expensive, with too many barriers to entry. But an iPod (or MP3 player)? A tablet? A light, intuitive, mobile device with natural interfaces like speech and handwriting? These are devices that lend themselves to learning.
Work is not about using computers. Work is about teaching, healing, influencing, building, creating, entertaining, transacting, selling, serving, reporting, and leading. The PC did a great job of automating the paper based processes we used to arbiter knowledge. But it’s day is done.
Windows is not for Post-PC Devices
The <1% marketshare of Windows Phones leading to today’s layoff of the final 1850 Nokia staff is demonstrative that Windows, a brilliant PC platform, indeed PC OS’s have no place in the post-PC world. Google knows this. Apple knows this. Palm knew this a long time ago (sadly).
Even start-ups who’re using the power of the Internet, and programming, i.e. writing code, don’t use Windows PC’s. Even when they’re writing for solutions on Microsoft Azure. Actually that’s not entirely true. Of course many startups use Windows. Just not PC’s. When they need local compute power, Macs are predominent in the startup world. Many of these run Windows in bootcamp, or in a virtual machine. That is those that aren’t running Linux 🙂
Use the tools that enable, accelerate, and amplify your work. For now this is most likely a mobile device giving you the information you need, where and when you need it, with the processing power and ubiquitous access of the cloud, combined with the collaborative nature of social media.
Tomorrow it will probably be an Augmented Reality device giving you information from IoT sensors instrumenting everything, combined with the real time context from distributed AI & machine learning analytics systems.
I won’t buy a Surface, not even for work, because the iPad Pro is a superior device for my ‘real’ work. (Well that and my employer issues me with an laptop) I will very likely, however, buy the Microsoft Hololens 🙂