“Real Work” and the Post-PC age

iPad Pro
The best work travel device

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.

I responded with a baited hook about the superiority of the iPP, which (again predictably) he took. Hilarity ensued.

Surface Pro 4
(c) Microsoft – Surface Pro 4

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.

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’.


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.

Other Industries

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).

Or Startups

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 🙂

Move On

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 🙂


The Best Blogging Tool… …Ever!!

Project 2012: Day 12

Chances are if you’re reading this you’re either already a blogger, have decided it’s not for you, or may be considering getting into blogging. If you are a blogger, what do you reckon is your best blogging tool?

For me there are two choices:

1) For really simple blogging (although powerful enough for most) I use Posterous. For posts (or pages) you simply email post@posterous.com. Any attachment or link in your email is automagically converted into an embedded item.

2) For my main WordPress and work blogs, I use Windows Live Writer. You can get this off the web for free, it posts to most blog platforms, and has plugins readily available for those not on the list.

I’ve been using this tool for almost 4 years now, and it has stood the test of time. The interface is unadorned, inspiring good writing, yet it is simple to enrich your posts (and pages) with rich text and media.

I love the fact that you can use it offline, yet still synch with your blog account. Also that you can specify post date (and time).

I love the ease that you can embed media, not to mention modify code if you really need to.

And did I mention it’s free.

Check it out…


The only issue is that WLW only runs on Windows. There is no (free or otherwise) Mac tool that comes close, so I have to run a Windows Virtual Machine on my MBP every time I blog…