/// The key to mobile productivity
The role of tablets in the workplace is slowly evolving to take the place of PCs and laptops for many people. This has not always been the case. Tablets, first considered consumption-only devices, have had to prove their worth as productivity devices. Early mobile productivity pioneers like Harry McCracken, mobile editor at Time, have struggled with finding their path through maturing apps and hardware.
Visionaries like him have taken painstaking steps to discover what works and what doesn’t. For him, one of the first individuals to really work mobile-only, the key to mobile productivity is the keyboard.
He explained that the keyboard changes an iPad from a media consumption device into a productivity tool. As an early adopter, getting his first model when the iPad initially came out, he found that he basically used it for content consumption. He gradually realised that he could use the device for more productive endeavours, but, as he stated, “I wasn’t ready to start typing a thousand-word article on the on-screen keyboard.”
Keyboards are the central to mobile productivity. As he explained, “QWERTY keyboards were invented in the 19th century and they’re still one of the best tools ever designed for productivity.”
I asked if he preferred a physical keyboard over typing on-screen. McCracken’s response was, “I think it’s possible over time for people to be more comfortable typing on glass. My big issue is not that typing is uncomfortable [on-screen] as much that the keyboard covers up most of your work. I like to be able to see more of my writing at one time than if I’m using an on-screen keyboard.” He did point out that, “I know some people who really do ambitious writing on-screen, though.”
When he first started working primarily on the iPad’s external keyboard he recalled, “there was a large group of people telling me I was an idiot for doing it or it meant that I was extremely unsophisticated. They thought that sophisticated technology users need a powerful computer. I was out and about all the time. People would see me doing it and would come up to me and ask me what I was doing.” He laughed as he remembered that “sometimes they could tell that it was an iPad with a keyboard and sometimes they thought it was some new, wonderful computing device.”
I was curious to learn what keyboards he’s used and recommends. The Zagg Folio was his initial keyboard for the iPad. This allowed him to “basically turn the iPad into a small notebook.” McCracken commented that there are “two primary companies that make nice keyboards—there’s Zagg and Logitech. I’ve used all of their models.” He also added that he is fairly agnostic when it comes to brand. “I keep switching back and forth.”
The desktop has disappeared from his office. The laptop is the closest equivalent he has to a desktop these days. “My laptop is the computer I use at home or the office. Even when I am at home or at the office, I’m just as likely to use the iPad with the keyboard.” He also noted that after he made the switch, when he traveled he would take his laptop with him as a security blanket. But after a while he discovered that he could travel with his iPad and have everything he needed.
At first, he noticed that people were surprised by his choice of computing device. Some of the pushback was due to file management. “People can’t figure out how I can do this given that you don’t have full access to the file management system on the iPad, and I sort of found that I can in fact get the files I need to get into whatever application I need to.” He was quick to point out that “You don’t do it the same way in every instance. Sometimes I need to know about backdoor tips and tricks to move things around.”
Where he was once in a position that confounded friends and coworkers, working via a tablet is now transitioning to the norm. “When I started doing this, people thought that using a tablet as a productivity device was a little odd. But then Microsoft announced Windows 8 and Surface. This is kind of an attempt to build something from the ground up that’s very similar to the setup I have. You’re seeing conventional PCs becoming more like tablets. At the same time, tablets are becoming more like conventional PCs.”
He attributes the confusion and hesitation to going against the grain: “People get very defensive when someone is taking a different approach to computing than they do.” But he brings a positive approach to the entire situation. “My feeling is, there is no wrong way to use computers. If you’re happy and productive, all ways are equally good. If that means you need a desktop tower, that’s fine; if you can do it with just an iPad, that’s also fine.” Individuals like Harry McCracken, who focus on productivity as the rationale for computing, will help propel innovative solutions forward in the enterprise.
The Guardian - Benjamin Robbins, Co-Founder at Palador, a mobile strategy and solutions consultancy located in Seattle.