No matter how cool, phones are not tablets or computers. Or are they?

Summary:I see a lot of discussions about using phones in the enterprise but I never hear how well that works for anyone. Phones are not tablets or computers and aren't great for heavy BYOD use. But with a little tweaking, could they be?

Phones are phones are phones.

No matter how large the screen, how much data is on your data plan, how many apps you have on it, or how much you think how awesome your phone is; your phone is still just a phone. While you can compose email messages on it, how many can you do before you wish that you had a real keyboard? You can perform web searches on it, but how many can you perform before you say, "I wish I had a larger screen"?

Keep wishing. Your wish might come true very soon.

Great Debate: Tablets or more powerful smartphones - which is the future for business?

Sure, you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your phone. I've done it just to see what it's like and to avoid using the tiny phone keyboard. Between Autocorrect and fatfingering, I just don't have the patience for using virtual keyboards on phones. The pushbutton ones are better, but not much better.

To my knowledge, there aren't any consumer-ready Bluetooth monitors/screens that you can use with your phone available. And what if there were? It would seem silly to connect your phone to a keyboard and monitor, wouldn't it? 

It just seems wrong to me. Maybe it isn't.

Maybe it's no different than using an All-in-One computer that is a Bluetooth keyboard, Bluetooth mouse, and monitor with built-in hard drive and motherboard.

If enough people want to use phones as mobile computers, monitor manufacturers or an interested third-party should create a monitor-attached phone cradle so that the phone is hidden away so that no one knows.

These days, you can install any app on a phone that you can install on a tablet: word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, email, Internet browsing, graphics, photo editing, music, technical utilities (SSH client, RDP client), and social media apps. 

And almost every time that I install an app on my tablet, the app also installs on my phone without intervention, and vice versa. 

I think that, given the power of new mobile phones, the form factor of your chosen computing device will soon be a moot point. In other words, whether you use a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer will only matter to you. 

Desktop computers are getting smaller. My new Mac mini is only about 8 inches square and less than two inches tall. If you remember the "pizza box" computers of the old days, this thing is a personal pan pizza. It's totally portable -- provided that you have a monitor at each location that you want to travel to.

The monitor seems to be the current limiting factor on mobile desktop computing. Some have suggested that you can use your tablet as a monitor. But I say that if you have your tablet, why would you need to use it as a monitor?

If you have a keyboard, monitor, and maybe a mouse, I'm not sure that it matters what computing device you're connected to.

The closest arrangement to a real computer (desktop or laptop), in the mobile device world, is a tablet plus a keyboard. Then it's basically a laptop—or so my wife has observed when watching me use my Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad. She's never seen me using it with my iPhone. She will never see that. I don't need to partake in the inevitable dialogue about how silly it is.

It's not silly. It's an experiment.

And it's not a silly experiment, either.

It's an experiment to test whether using a phone as a primary computing device is a good idea or not. My results say that it doesn't seem to matter.

If you have a keyboard, monitor, and maybe a mouse, I'm not sure that it matters what computing device you're connected to. The apps all work as expected. Response is good. I can browse Internet sites, send text messages, edit files, and even make phone calls all simultaneously*.

Companies will have to accommodate users' devices by providing certain standard amenities: monitor, keyboard, docking hardware or device cradles. The device a user brings to the office might vary from day to day so the static office hardware needs to be flexible enough to attach to a variety of user devices. The biggest technology hurdle will be the monitor because you'd have to have one that can attach to phones, tablets, laptops, and various portable computer types.

Additionally, Wi-Fi connectivity will be required because phones and tablets generally don't connect to wired networks. Therefore, a true, fully realized BYOD environment** will require some thought and perhaps some rules of engagement.

This new paradigm does bring up an interesting question: Does the variety of user devices and connectivity issues create a technology conundrum great enough to make BYOD too difficult and too expensive? Only time and hardware advances will tell for sure.

What do you think? Given the diversity of user devices, is BYOD actually a workable solution for companies? Will technological advances improve our ability to bring any device to the office? Talk back and let me know.

*Simultaneously isn't quite accurate since people are generally monotaskers but as simultaneously as a person can do by having multiple apps open and switching among them.

**An environment that allows users to bring any computing device (phone, tablet, laptop, mobile workstation) and enjoy full connectivity as a usable workstation.

See Also:

Topics: Mobile OS, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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