Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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3/31/2009
06:19 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Netbooks vs. Smartphones

I started my day swapping messages with an IT manager who thought InformationWeek missed the mark with our cover story on smartphones, because he thinks netbooks are the answer for his road warriors. We discussed how quickly the two devices might converge. Now I end the day reading about how Hewlett-Packard's testing Google's Android cell phone operating system for use on netbooks. Convergence ahead.

I started my day swapping messages with an IT manager who thought InformationWeek missed the mark with our cover story on smartphones, because he thinks netbooks are the answer for his road warriors. We discussed how quickly the two devices might converge. Now I end the day reading about how Hewlett-Packard's testing Google's Android cell phone operating system for use on netbooks. Convergence ahead.In my exchange with Matt Whalen, IT manager at Bartlett investment advisors, we started talking about the comparative advantages of netbooks versus smartphones for business use. Our cover story this week explores how more companies are pushing enterprise apps to smartphones, and the tradeoffs and problems they face. Here is Mr. Whalen's early thinking on netbooks' advantages:

… It seems to me when you want to get serious about mobile business computing you need to set your focus on netbooks. I'm just beginning to dip my toes into this pool, but it's fascinating and it appears to pave the way for a lot of my goals: Mobile computing INSIDE the office, true road warrior capability, possibly even desktop replacement. … I have a Citrix/VPN solution here. When I send a netbook out it's a pretty simple procedure to connect it to the mother ship for access to any application a road warrior needs. Our managers are actually able to WORK from the airport or from anywhere else on the road with a netbook. They're not wasting time furiously thumb-typing into their mobile phones with those tiny 2.5 x 4 screens. (Why not just use a laptop? It's too expensive, and it's too big!)

That moved to discussion of whether a netbook/smartphone convergence will make a laptop obsolete. The Wall Street Journal story on HP testing Android's feasibility for netbooks adds to the idea that the difference between netbooks and smartphones could narrow quickly. That would have big implications for Window's future, but I'm more interested what it all means for end users.

For awhile, we might be looking at the bad old days where we're again carting around too many devices-bringing a smartphone and a netbook on the road. Remember just a few years ago, when people carried a laptop, BlackBerry, and Motorola Razr, because the BlackBerry did great e-mail but was such a lousy phone? Now it's down to laptop and smartphone-and the laptop's the one we consider leaving behind.

But what if that netbook gives you always-on e-mail, and the VoIP connection you're already using at the office? Call it what you want, but it's going to be what you take on the road.

As Mr. Whalen put it in our exchange:

Maybe we're heading towards a new convergence. One lightweight, highly portable device, always on, always connected, anywhere. Excuse me, I think my netbook is ringing… .

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