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Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Going Laptopless: MicroPersuasion On iPhone As Notebook Replacement

Ever since my InformationWeek cover story, "Is The Smartphone Your Next Computer?," I've been getting pinged by people telling me their tales of going "laptopless." (Can I use that word in a family blog?) Steve Rubel, the popular MicroPersuasion blogger and public-relations executive at Edelman Digital, spoke with me for the

Ever since my InformationWeek cover story, "Is The Smartphone Your Next Computer?," I've been getting pinged by people telling me their tales of going "laptopless." (Can I use that word in a family blog?) Steve Rubel, the popular MicroPersuasion blogger and public-relations executive at Edelman Digital, spoke with me for the story and told me why he's tilting away from the notebook and relying increasingly on his iPhone. Here's our full interview.Wolfe: What do you use your smartphone for?

Rubel: I have an Apple iPhone 3G. I use my smartphone for virtually all tasks, with the exception of anything that requires writing more than 1000 words and/or a large screen --creating a PowerPoint, for example. This includes RSS feeds, reading articles and e-books, taking notes, updating/managing lists, and writing blog posts. I would say that I can get away with an iPhone 75% of the time, perhaps more. It's my primary productivity tool and it keeps me running efficiently. Wolfe: Why are you using your smartphone for such tasks? Is it just convenience?

Rubel: There are a few factors here. For starters, my work and personal life are intertwined and I am very mobile, so I find the [iPhone] the easiest way to keep up with everything in one place. I also am the perfect candidate since I keep almost all my data in the cloud, either on hosted services or corporate servers.

Second, I find it's easier to often read content on the screen because of the screen size and intimacy of the device. So I make sure that my smartphone is constantly stocked with articles to read. There's no such thing as downtime for me anymore because my smartphone makes formerly unusable time effective. I view it as the fulcrum of my productivity system.

Wolfe: Do you ever leave your laptop home entirely?

Rubel: For the past year, whenever I travel one night or less for business, I leave my laptop at home. The one exception is if I feel I will need to write or edit a document like a PowerPoint or a proposal. I also carry a thumb drive stocked with portable applications, but find that carrying a laptop is easier if I think I am going to need it. I may test the waters with going "laptopless" on two-night trips in the near future. I have a portable Wi-Fi router I carry as well for the hotel room, since 3G isn't quite ubiquitous yet and EDGE is barely tolerable at times. Wolfe: Are you using any ready- made mobile enterprise apps?

Rubel: All of the enterprise applications I use at Edelman right now are Web apps, not mobile apps. However, most of them work just fine in the iPhone browser.

Wolfe: Do you foresee additional uptake of tasks by smartphones?

Rubel: I believe we're in a great era of transition. Ten years from now, we will laugh at people who still take laptops on business trips. The reason is that smartphones will be the center of everyone's computing experience and they will blend personal/professional lives.

Our data will be stored on the cloud. The devices will connect wirelessly to LCD monitors and keyboards/mice and utilize the full Windows or OS X experience. Once detached, they will adopt a more mobile-centric paradigm like the iPhone or Windows Mobile operating system. The same thing will apply at home. Hotel rooms will even have these peripherals. People will have one device that does it all, but these will leverage the cloud and peripherals for tasks that require it, and adopt different personalities based on context.

Wolfe: What about other people in your organization? Are they embracing smartphones as occasional laptop replacements?

Rubel: Most people I know still travel with laptops. Part of it, I think, is that people like desktop applications over Web apps and that they need to create documents on the road. However, some senior execs I know leave their laptops at home since most of what they do lives in email, meetings and phone calls. Wolfe: Any other observations?

Rubel: Connectivity still remains a major stumbling block. When you're on the plane and you need to get work done, you need to plan ahead. With a laptop this is less of an issue. In-flight broadband as well as the opening of the spectrum may help this over time.

Interesting stuff. You can keep up with Steve's blogging, which is always rich in useful links, over at MicroPersuasion.

So are you going laptopless? Let me know, by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me directly at

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