What can a MUPPET teach us about mobile computing? More than you might think. The number of devices we need is an important question for the enterprise. It is a core variable in planning for IT support, application access requirements and WiFi planning. Of course, the answer lies in what we do on a daily basis. There is a difference between want and need.
Last week I outlined why the operating system (OS) matters less today than in the past (Does the OS Matter Anymore?). Device proliferation is a big catalyst spreading applications that cut across OS boundaries and the different computing environments characterized by screen size, touch interface, and processing power. Just three years ago, smartphones were still phones and tablets were a novelty. Our computing was on laptop or desktop. Times have changed.
Optimized Productivity for a Mobile Era
The driver behind device proliferation is directly related to utility on two dimensions. The first dimension is capability. Smartphones and tablets have tremendous computing power. They can be utilized for many tasks that once were reserved for laptops and desktops. Their portability and accessibility often make them superior for functions such as messaging, image distribution and content consumption. This is the core of our second dimension: optimization. Can we make calls, send messages and consume content on our laptops? Yes. However, the immediacy and engagement for these activities are typically superior in your mobile devices.
Four Core Activities
There are four activities most professionals engage in everyday that involve computing devices. They communicate through messaging, consume content, create content and access compute resources to process and store data.
The Necessities – smartphones and laptops
In the mobile era this breaks down nicely into four device categories optimized for each of these tasks. Smartphones are the king of communication enabling voice, video and messaging in an always-connected, wherever you are, whenever you are ready manner. The laptop / desktop environment remains the top tool for content creation. You can create content on smartphones and tablets, but the screen real-estate, multi-tasking capability, functionality and processing power of your traditional personal computer environment is superior and remains necessary. It is hard to imagine many scenarios where most people could be very productive without these two devices.
The Enabler – cloud
It is also hard to now imagine effective productivity without cloud or server based computing resources. In the enterprise we rely on data center resources to access applications, store data and execute key tasks. The server side processing enables the enterprise to maintain consistency and performance for key activities while protecting data and preventing loss. The cloud can also enable a common resource access for users regardless of the device they have available. This has become more than mere convenience. It also has enabled smart mobile devices to become far more useful and reduces the challenge of utilizing multiple devices where islands of information are a risk.
The Difference Maker – tablets
This brings us to tablets. It is hard to say tablets are an absolute necessity. They can perform many of the functions of the laptop, but still lack the features of laptops for content creation. They are good for messaging and superior for video, but fall well short today for voice communications. They are more portable than laptops and have better battery life, but don’t fit in your pocket like a smartphone and therefore aren’t everywhere you are. However, the brilliant screens, comfortable screen size, light weight, and touch-interface make them optimal for content consumption. In a era driven more and more by knowledge workers requiring rapid and frequent information consumption, these devices shine.
In order to have a little fun with our new computing paradigm and ensure we coin an acronym before someone in government gets their hands on it, EdgeLens has named this the Mobile User Personal Productivity and Technology Engagement (MUPPET) Model. This works because our computing needs are about three things: mobility, productivity and engagement. When considering what an employee needs to complete her job, you can be sure that three of the four quadrants will be seen as essential with tablets being important for some and a personal option for most others.
The perceptual map also provides some instruction here. For example, employees in a sales function that do not create much content and are more focused on consuming content, receiving data, engaging with customers and have high mobility requirements, may do fine with only a smartphone and tablet connected back to the corporate cloud computing environment. By contrast, an enterprise application software developer spends most of his time creating content and communicating with peers. In this instance a laptop, smartphone and cloud resources are a must, but a tablet is probably a luxury.
1 User, 3 OS Update
In last week’s post I listed my three devices (Windows laptop, iPad, Droid Razr Maxx all connected to cloud solutions) with their different operating systems and described my personal test of whether the OS matters anymore. So far so good. In fact, I would say there has been no hindrance to date. I used Email, Calendar, EverNote, LinkedIn and Pocket (formerly Read it Later) on all three devices this past week; DropBox and WordPress on two. I read the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch on all three devices each day and conducted internet searches and email with whatever device was closest at hand. I certainly gravitate to consuming content on the larger tablet and laptop screens, but do so on the mobile more frequently for shorter periods.
If you consider the MUPPET Model, I am using it as intended. I am optimizing when possible, but leveraging broad capabilities of the various devices based on immediacy and convenience. For the enterprise this is an important lesson. Immediacy and convenience are core elements of leveraging mobility to increase personal productivity. The other elements are having the right tools for the job and having computing environments that people feel are useful and even enjoyable. We all know we need two devices and many of us probably need all three with the cloud as our key enabler.
What do you think? Is the MUPPET Model a good way to think about device optimization? Do you think a tablet is a necessity or luxury? Please comment below.