Bit by bit: Where the phone doesn’t work…

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Updated: May 5, 2015 10:59:31 AM

Smartphones these days have better specifications than the PCs most of us started working on.

Sample this: 2.5 GHz octa-core processors, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage … smartphones these days have better specifications than the PCs most of us started working on. But are they good enough for us to get rid of the traditional PCs? That answer is still ‘no’, even with larger tablet computers.

This general reluctance to switch over to smartphones as primary computing devices might have more to do with the comfort factor than actual capabilities of the devices. A lot of new devices can easily power a full computer, but most of us still prefer to run to an old Windows XP PC in the office than work on a smaller touchscreen, even if it is better in more ways than one.

There are those who are becoming increasingly comfortable doing serious stuff on smartphones, especially the ones with the larger screens. For example, I do not need to do heavy-duty stuff on a small screen, but I can use Google Docs to write full news reports wherever I am using a Swipe keyboard. I used to do the same with my old iPhone 4, even though it had a tiny screen in comparison to the larger Android phablets of these days.

However, despite Google Docs, it is still pretty tough to do anything more than viewing a spreadsheet on a smartphone. There are a host of apps that have specific industry uses, but beyond that you are still stuck with email and document options when it comes to a smartphone. Of course, you can use the VPN and have secure calls, but replying to an office mail in full, ensuring that all attachments are revised according to your requirements, is still a task.

A lot of people preferred the BlackBerry because they thought the keyboard gave them an edge over their competition when it came to pushing out a story from the spot. Some of them still do, but that is because they have never used a contextual keyboard on an Android phone. BlackBerry, on the other hand, considered email as its biggest USP. But that is no longer a capability it can tout or bank on. It considers security as a huge plus point, and rightly so. But not all of us deal in stuff that needs to be kept secure at all times, and that is a good reason why this edge has not been able to sell BlackBerry devices. This is despite the fact that most customers, and CTOs, still consider Android a security nightmare. Try browsing websites on an Android phone browser and you will see that bugs will make you worry. BlackBerry now sees an opportunity in selling its security for other platforms.

Microsoft, meanwhile, thinks people will shift to a Windows Phone for the productivity its Office suite can offer. “We are selling the experience. We are selling the services, too. It is a whole consumer offer … the Windows Phone operating system has its own advantages,” says Ajey Mehta, MD, Microsoft Mobile Devices. In other words, a Windows Phone gives you a window into the once premium Microsoft ecosystem. Everything from Microsoft Word to OneNote and OneDrive comes for free, even if most of us have learnt not to live with it. But those who use Microsoft Exchange in office certainly have a good reason to own a Windows Phone.

Apple, too, is selling its ecosystem to enterprise users. Its proposition has, over the past couple of years, made many Fortune 500 companies shift to iOS, often at the cost of BlackBerry and Microsoft. It helps that, in the US, a lot of the employees are already using iPhones. It doesn’t help that, in countries such as India, Apple is not being considered as an enterprise option by at least SMEs.

Despite constant reinvention by smartphones companies and platforms, it remains a fact that a lot of productive work still has to wait for a PC or a Mac and cannot be executed gainfully on a smaller screen. I doubt if at least for a couple of years more we will reach a point where a smartphone will become an office device. And this is despite all the humbug we have been hearing about cloud and larger screens and faster phones. After all, we are creatures of habit.

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