Wireless Mobile Productivity Devices


Ray Ozzie opines on wireless mobile productivity devices (i.e. notebook computers) and concludes that "In terms of the value that we can get from our own personal computers and the Internet, however, we're still at the dawn of a new era.  An era in which software matters, and architecture matters."  He says:

The browser has served us well.  It has provided a means by which we can have universal access to applications, transactions, and published information.  But in the meantime, the PC has become a powerhouse: cpu, gpu, storage, price.  The Great Conversion to notebook computers is well under way, and it's now clear that the most wildly successful wireless mobile productivity device won't be the 3G phone, or even the BlackBerry, but the ubiquitous and inexpensive WiFi notebook.  In a shape and size to suit every need.

I use a notebook computer exclusively and have for years.  I got tired of never having the right files with me and so now they're all in one place and I carry that place with me.  I also have a WiFi card and one of the new Sprint CDMA cards for wide area wireless.  I find its easier to get work and other things done if I've got the same environment no matter where I go. 

The question that I ask as a CIO is how widely should notebook computers be deployed in the organization.  One school of thought is to let Ozzie and others develop applications that drive demand and let business managers make the decision of who should have a laptop and who doesn't ned one.  That presumes that the business managers have the vision to see the (often soft) value that a notebook might bring. 

The other school of thought is push them out to the organization widely and see what happens.  As an example, about a year ago, I needed to replace the computers for my staff and I got a notebook for everyone.  My feeling is that they don't have to take it home and work very often for me to recoup a few hundred dollars difference in cost. 

At an enterprise level, I prefer a third way.  As CIO, I have a duty to support business managers in reaching business goals, but I also often have to wear the visionary hat, which sometimes means finding ways to deploy technology that may not have a proven ROI yet.   There is a kind of person (they exist in every organization) that if you give them a new tool with unexplored capabilities, they will figure out some pretty neat ways to use the tools.   I think we need to find ways to "award" notebook computers with wireless networking capabilities to these people and see what develops.  This is kind of the approach I took with blogging.  Fortunately, giving away blogs is less expensive than giving away notebook computers.