Essentially the post-Windows-era is being brought about by the introduction of inexpensive, highly portable, intelligent devices like the iPad and the iPhone. The success of these devices has literally changed the direction of both the cell phone and computer industries. It’s only been a few years since the introduction of the iPhone and now the term “smartphone” is part of the general vernacular and just about every “smartphone” on the market is a copy of the essential ideas in the iPhone. The iPad is barely a year old and it’s changed the course of the entire computer industry. Every computer company out there is now making an iPad copy. Executives from major computer vendors are speaking as if building these devices was their idea all along, but we know that isn’t true.
One interesting aspect is that the two largely separate industries, cell phones and computers have been brought crashing together as smartphones and tablets become the preferred general purpose computing platforms. Mobile phones are very adept at handling a large percentage of the mundane tasks that used to require a full blown computer such as reading and responding to email, utilizing the web, and other forms of media consumption. In a pinch smartphones can serve as document and content creation devices as well, but larger tablets are much more convenient.
Here is a scenario that is occurring for me right now. I received a call from a client requesting that i convert OUTLOOK.PST files to something that was open and could be read by other email programs. Not a problem but I’m sitting in traffic court.
Luckily I have my iPad. Using the iPad I was able to control my laptop on my desk back at home. I had it download the .PST files and run them through a conversion to create MBOX files. Then transmit those files back to the client. Effectively my laptop became my temporary cloud service. I didn’t do the processing on the iPad, but I controlled everything including all communication from the iPad. I then connected to Freshbooks.com and updated my invoice for the client, which when I send it later today, will be link to a browser viewable invoice as well as a PDF if they want a copy.
All of this and there were no Windows computers involved.
The CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) states that 17 million tablets were sold in 2010. Apple sold 15 million iPads so the lion’s share of that number clearly went to iPads. They are projecting that 30 million units will be sold in 2011. Gartner thinks that tablet sales will increase to 54.8 million units in 2011. Apple is expected to dominate the market for the foreseeable future at 75% of tablet sales going to iPads. With the release of the iPad 2, Apple is off to a clear head start as there are still no real competitors for the iPad. Gartner also expects tablet sales to surpass 208 million units in 2014. The iPad/iPhone/iOS ecosystem will still be the one to beat in 2014 the way things are looking. Apple clearly has some fantastic plans in the works for bridging the worlds of Mac OS X and iOS.
An important number to look at in all the projections is that it is expected that more than 25% of all tablet purchases will be made by enterprises in 2011. Most of these will likely be iPads which don’t run Windows. Most of the other tablets will likely run Android and/or WebOS (if HP ever gets it out the door).
In other words, Welcome to the Post-Windows-Era. Employees are gravitating toward these mobile devices, and developing intuition about what the cloud can do for them. I.e. increase their mobility as well as productivity. In the Post-Windows-Era, your files are where you are. Your servers are as ubiquitous as Internet connectivity. Your productivity is tied directly to open standards, not Windows compatibility.
Even Microsoft is busy building patches, kludges, and hanging sacks off the side of Windows so they can call it a tablet OS, but all of these efforts indicate they really don’t get one of the chief ideas behind tablet computing and that’s the elimination of complexity.
Slowly but surely we are drifting away from Windows into the cloud with smart devices and competitive operating systems. Our future is a vastly more sturdy, secure, and adaptable infrastructure. Instead of easily attacked and hobbled homogeneous networks, diversity will add strength to the digital ecosystem as it does the biological one.
Next, what happens to the IT Department in the Post-Windows-Era?