4 Traditional PC Features Mobile is NOT About

A slide I use in my Mobile Learning workshops to illustrate ways in which mobile is different than the traditional PC.

I have been on vacation for three weeks taking a break visiting my parents and celebrating my son’s 7th birthday. I am back and looking forward to more great mobile conversations. I hope you are doing well and thanks for staying tuned in to my writing.

James Kendrick over at ZDNet wrote a nice article entitled “10 advantages Windows 8 tablets have over the iPad and Android.” Here’s what he said right before the list:

… 10 features in this collection that give Windows 8 an advantage over the competition are by no means the only ones. They are significant enough to break them out from the rest.

via 10 advantages Windows 8 tablets have over the iPad and Android | ZDNet.

Around the same time, stories related to how Microsoft is doing thus far with their Surface tablet began to come out. Here’s one in particular that is very telling:

[the] Surface RT tablet recently led to a write-down totaling $900 million.

That number turned out to be greater than the amount of revenue earned on the entire Surface product line.

According to GeekWire, total Surface revenue reached $853 million on June 30, 2013.

via Surface Revenue Falls Below Microsoft’s $900 Million Write-Down (MSFT) | Benzinga.

I don’t disagree with James in that all the features he mentioned are unique to Windows 8 tablets, and I’m not entirely sure these may even be some of the reasons why consumers are not buying the Surface tablet from Microsoft, but the list got me thinking about what ‘mobile is NOT about.’

I do think features like ‘multiple users‘ and the ‘snap view‘ are nice features, but beyond that, everything else mentioned, is exactly what we need to get as far away as we can as we move again from the old PC paradigm and into an increasingly mobile world. Namely:

1. Peripherals

A slide I use in my Mobile Learning workshops to illustrate ways in which mobile is different than the traditional PC.

A slide I use in my Mobile Learning workshops to illustrate ways in which mobile is different than the traditional PC.

James points out that attaching peripherals to Windows 8 tablets, such as a 1T portable hard drive, is one of the advantages, as compared to Apple tablets and Android tablets, that do not come with USB ports.

One thing that amazes me about the PC revolution is that after more than 25 years, we still need to download drivers every time we plug-in a new peripheral to the back of our computers.

Whatever happened to the promise of ‘Plug-and-Play‘? Mobile is about letting go of the past, in order to invent new ways of working better and enjoying the experience.

Tablet makers, who add USB ports to their devices can’t let go of the past. We shouldn’t have to carry around heavy hard drive with us, what we need to do is embrace the cloud as a storage innovation and improve how our devices automatically synchronize what’s important to us. The goals is to grab whatever device may be closest to us.

We don’t need to plug-in a mouse to our tablet, we need to invent new ways of interacting with our screens using our fingers. Mobile is about doing more with less.

2. Full-blown file manager

“The Windows File Manager has long been a fixture on desktops” writes James. True but did it truly make us more efficient? I mean even today we struggle to figure out where exactly we placed that important file, is it in My Documents folder or on my Desktop? We still have to wait for our Windows and Mac desktop computers to finish indexing our files before we can search for a file we desperately need to edit. Fortunately companies like Apple are taking cues from mobile and the web and making things easier on Desktop with features like tagging and Finder tabs, which will be available in the next version of OS X, Mavericks.

Mobile represents an opportunity to start fresh and learn from the past and I for one I’m glad I don’t have to worry where I store my files on my smartphones and tablets.

3. Pen Support

As for tablets with Pen Support, Steve Jobs said it best:

“It’s like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager… they blew it. Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it.”

Users shouldn’t ever have to think about it indeed!

4. Run Powerful Software

If I had to pick one thing the PC revolution was characterized for, I would have to say that it was ‘The more features, the better.’ This is the paradigm that brought us to what we consider today to be ‘powerful software,’ lots of features sprinkled across lots of menus and lots of panels.

Mobile on the other hand is about simplicity, it’s about doing more with less.

I leave you with something I wrote awhile back that I think applies here:

I believe in this article, McKenzie makes an excellent point about how we should think about designing for mobile and I feel these same principles apply to all of us in mLearning:

Now we need services that require less typing, fewer buttons, simple swipe and pinch actions, browsing that seamlessly integrates vertical and horizontal movement, larger images, and fewer data hooks that clutter up the user experience.

via When Designing Mobile Learning, Think Less is More [#mLearning] | The mLearning Revolution Blog.


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  • Phil Cowcill

    These are some great points RJ. I do like the USB option though – or at least a SD card. With the hi res pictures on today’s devices, you can fill up the space very quickly with pictures and video. I was travelling on my motorbike for two weeks and most of the time I was NOT connected by WiFi. When I was at some of the hotels, the WiFi was spotty so uploading images was very painful. Having a SD card would allow me to quickly backup the images and make room for more pics.

    Having the option of a USB doesn’t mean you have to use it. It’s there in case some people are more comfortable to say typing with a physical keyboard & you don’t have a blue tooth one. Nice to have the option – but it doesn’t mean you have to use it.

    The ONLY advantages I can thing of with a pen technology is that you won’t smudge your touch screen and it can be a little more accurate than your finger. Outside of that, I’m not sure why you’d use one.

    Good to read your article RJ. Welcome back from vacation.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Phil, thanks for your comment my friend! It’s great to be back. I had a great time with my parents and the rest of the family, especially because I had absolutely no Internet connection for about 10 days. It felt great. Hope you are doing well.

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