We humans are hungry for immediacy. Once we realize that it’s possible not to have to wait – and that we have the power to do it – then to paraphrase Freddie Mercury, it’s “I want it here, and I want it now!”
This is one of the reasons why so many of us carry smartphones – nowadays, who wants to wait until we get home to download their messages, or have to find a phone booth? And that’s why so many people have Amazon Prime memberships – it’s also why brick-and-mortar retail won’t go away entirely, but that’s another story.
And that explains the history of personal computing quite a bit, if you think about it in terms of portability and ubiquity. We invented laptops so we could take our PCs with us, then Wi-Fi made it easy for us to connect them, and now LTE-enabled tablets and smartphones allow us to have internet access almost anywhere we go.
The physical links remain, as do the associated management costs
But in almost all cases – even, or perhaps most importantly, the smartphone – we are still attached to our own hardware. Part of this is psychological: for many people, “personal” on PC translates to “Mine!” And some are handy: Borrowing someone else’s device means dealing with an unfamiliar setup, along with a different set of apps and shortcuts. Then you need to connect to your files online or insert your USB drive, with all the security considerations involved.
So it’s no surprise that as the capabilities of browser-based applications have grown, we are increasingly doing it this way. Once you’ve made a commitment – and this can be a significant commitment – to Google Workspace, Microsoft Office365, Dropbox, Box, or maybe a smaller player like Zoho, you can work from almost any device. with an up-to-date browser.
We’re even seeing web-based collaboration setups that you can install and host yourself. I recently spoke with onsite office suite provider Collabora, who worked with Ubuntu creator Canonical and open source team software developer Nextcloud to create a all-in-one collaboration device. Essentially, you install it on your own device, even something as small as an Intel NUC or a Raspberry Pi, and then publish all of those web shared services to your own domain.
On the client side, Google’s ChromeOS platform extends it in a different direction, dramatically simplifying the management of desktops and users by making the device essentially a hardware web browser. And yes, I know many Chromebooks can run local apps as well, but the goal is the same – access all your files and your familiar personal desktop setup from anywhere, on any ChromeOS device. .
Buy ubiquitous access: can you really charge for it?
For many users, this type of ubiquitous access is ideal. If you are already invested in webmail, documents, etc., it probably looks like the way you work now, logging in from your desktop or home laptop as needed. It could also mean that you are a good candidate for a Chromebook or similar.
However, it will not meet all needs. Users can be categorized into groups, and the needs of those groups can vary widely – this is something that comes up over and over again in our research. For example, some will be able to do everything through the browser, whether at home or in the office, while others may need something closer to a regular laptop in order to be able to work on the go or when are offline. And some high level “demands” may be motivated more by ego than by a real need.
Applications also vary, and your organization may rely on applications that are not web-based. In this case, you might need to look for alternative routes, such as server-based or cloud-based virtual desktops, delivered on thin client desktop devices. On the other hand, if only a few users need these apps, maybe this group could come with properly configured PCs or better performing Chromebooks.
The key is not to assume that this is a binary decision. No, this is not a universal solution, but neither is it “Our users are too diverse to take advantage of these opportunities to consolidate and simplify the management of workstations. Look for groupings or clusters of requirements, use the 80/20 rule if necessary: these opportunities really are there.
Photo by @luisviol on Unsplash.com