I love Twitter. I love it for a whole load of reasons. One of the reasons is because it gives you the chance to have conversations spurred by slightly out of context observations from people attending conferences. One of those came up this morning from the Computing IT Leader’s Forum – a special event on the subject of “CYOD” (Choose your own device), sponsored by Intel.

The Tweet and resulting conversation you can find here: https://twitter.com/ballantine70/status/405277285533884416

In short, from what I can understand from the coverage, email is the most used “productivity” app in businesses. A touchscreen keyboard isn’t terribly efficient. One needs to type to use email. Therefore smart devices, and tablets, are efficient tools for business use. (As I say, terribly out of context and all the more fun as a result).

That, of course, comes from an event sponsored by a company that has seen it’s lunch taken away by competitors powering smartphones and tablets.

As I somewhat sarcastically responded to Stuart Sumner, the editor of Computing, that’s a bit like saying that laptops won’t take off because they’re a bit rubbish at sending faxes. (Sorry, Stuart – another thing I love about Twitter is how is brings out my sarcastic side…)

The thing is, email is a rubbish service: as I heard it recently described, the “to do list over which you have absolutely no control”. It’s there just because, but it’s not the all-powerful thing it once was. In the past 24 hours I’ve used email. But I’ve also used LinkedIn, Twitter, instant messaging, SMS, WordPress, and Facebook to send or receive messages in ways in which I could have done via email. And many of those messages that I sent I did on my smartphone (even less efficient than a tablet, based on the screen real estate argument from above).

I’ve always had a big problem with the “smart devices are content consumption devices” argument that has perpetuated for so long around tablets and phones. If the only way in which we are judged efficient is in terms of words per minute typing on a QWERTY keyboard, why on earth do so few people properly touch-type? If my smart device is so incapable of content production, why does it have a microphone and two cameras?

So sure, email isn’t going to disappear overnight. But assuming that it’s an impregnable tool that will be with us for ever is nonsense. As the fax has shown (and when I started working the fax was the core business tool for immediate business-to-business communication) the ways in which we communicate can change quite dramatically when technology allows us better methods.

Oh, and just one final thing on this. There’s a Canadian devices company that thought that the QWERTY Keyboard was the definition of business efficiency…


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