An interesting workshop yesterday with a group of end users at one of my clients. The project is looking to modernise key IT services – replacing clunky laptops and desktop thin client terminals and on premise productivity tools with sleek and light ultrabooks and Cloud-based collaborative places. The sort of thing in one way or another I’ve been doing for the past decade.

To kick off the session I asked participants to say their name and their role, and then say what piece of technology they couldn’t live without.

“An alarm clock”

“A wristwatch”

“My kindle”

“Pen and paper”

But the one thing mentioned more than anything else? The smartphone.

What wasn’t mentioned once, by anyone. Despite half a dozen of the things arranged at the front of the room for demonstration later? The laptop.

And, it must be stressed, this is within an organisation where today the access to corporate applications is limited to a minority of employees, and then restricted pretty much to email and calendar.

There was a bit of me wondering at this stage why we were running a project that was putting so much focus onto replacing devices about which people have not much regard. But in reality the shift to new laptop devices will enable better access to the Cloud services that will be available. And that in turn will mean that there will be far greater access to services from smartphones than people in the organisation experience today.

It’s little vignettes like this, however, that further convince me that not only are we now firmly into the post-PC era, but also that enterprise computing is still so very constrained by the idea of the personal computing being the only place that real work can happen.

It’s quite possible that all of the digital services that we consume today happily from the Web and from the mobile app, from social networks to shopping to music to art to banking, could have been constrained in the same ways. But I can guarantee you that we wouldn’t have the scale of use, or the importance in life, of these services if they’d been PC-only.

Enterprise software and services need to stop thinking that mobile is something you bolt onto the edges if provide at all. These days is our smartphones without which we cannot live, not our PCs.

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