End User Computing - Have we reached a tipping point?

End User Computing is about to go through another revolution. Things we have taken for granted for decades now are becoming less true by the day.

Convergence used to be a buzzword that basically meant that you could listen to mp3s on your phone. The technologies that are going to become widely available in the next few years are going to truly deliver on the promise of convergence.

CES 2019 brought the first real, working flexible screens from FlexPai and LG. No, I’d never heard of FlexPai either, but I don’t think that matters. In a couple of years they will be a huge manufacturer, a huge patent licencing company or a subsidiary of one of the big names. The point is we can now carry around in our pockets devices with equivalent compute, memory and even screens to a small laptop. Throw in Bluetooth earbuds for phone and the ability to extend to a second screen and you start to wonder why you need a laptop.

Of course, we’ve been trickling in this direction for a while. The iPad Pro made an attempt on the hyper-converged market, but its price and the fact of being tied into the Apple ecosystem put a lot of people off. But with iOS, Android and Windows Mobile (it’s still a thing - you can tell because of the amount of product placement in Netflix shows) apps for MS Office constantly improving the case for full PC capabilities for the average worker looks thinner and thinner. In fact, I would argue that the Outlook mobile app is better than the desktop one.

Microsoft will continue to own the vast proportion of the end user estate of course. Businesses are risk averse, and they have invested heavily in Windows and Office. But if your employees could do everything they needed to do using just their mobile device plus Bluetooth KVM accessories why would you buy a laptop or desktop as well?

Data security, virus protection, location privacy… these and others will require solutions more robust than we have now, although there are some great products out there. I’ve had good experiences with Airwatch, MaaS360 and ManageEngine. They all do 90% of what’s needed, but I do think they will need to be even better before we see enterprises convert to mobile only.

The question for me is no whether computing will go this way - it already is, and we need to be ready for it. The question is how well will IT teams adapt? How strong will the voices arguing to keep desktops (because it keeps them employed, and fair enough), how open to risk will IT leaders be, how much are the mobile providers willing to invest in the market? That last point is key. I reckon Huawei and One+ might be up for buying a bit of market share, certainly in APAC, and that may well crack it open for others.

Nick Ellis