[photo ‘leaked’ yesterday on Twitter of an iPad mini]
This is the first of two posts on the emergence of new form factors in computing and what they mean for the staffing industry. In this first one, I look at the devices from a consumer basis. In my next one, I’ll share an amazing story from a continent you’d least expect about how the low cost of these devices is disrupting our notion of work itself.
My daughter Anna is looking to replace her aging Windows laptop, and in a few weeks we’ll head down to the Mall of America and check out the fight that is about to erupt between Apple in one corner with its iPad Mini and Microsoft in another with its Surface tablet.
Recruiters will be facing the same conundrum of choosing between convenience and all-day-usability
Rumor has it that Apple’s iPad Mini will go on sale around November 2 and sport a price tag of $350. Microsoft is being coy about its Surface tablet. It will go on sale sooner, at the end of October, and they’ve been keeping the exact price and other details a better secret than even Steve Jobs could.
Either way, to convince Anna, she’ll need to see that the devices can serve both as a convenient hand held device AND as a word processing system. She writes a lot, and a good keyboard and a screen that doesn’t strain the eyes during all day use is a necessity.
Recruiters will be facing the same conundrum of choosing between convenience and all-day-usability. Some, like my friend Andy, will decide to make use of all the form factors. I met up with him this last weekend at a conference, and he was carrying with him no fewer than three form factors: his Android phone, his Nexus 7 tablet, and his Macbook Air laptop. Others, limited by budget or driven by a desire for simplicity, will try to get it all done with just a larger phone. Anna might just end up going with the phone and a laptop.
One thing to keep in mind as you make your own choices is how tolerant you are of not having your favorite programs on the different devices you own. This is a complaint I’m hearing a lot around the house. “Hey Dad, why can’t I play this iPad game on the Mac. They’re both Apple, right?”.
Get ready to hear that gripe a lot as the form factors increase in variety. My iPhone developers deal with this all the time. Even in the tightly constrained environment of iPhone and iPad which both get built using the same Xcode studio, making a display look nice on both form factors is a lot of work. Often, we need to design a different screen for each device.
Revolutions don’t happen at the country club.
This issue of inter-operability is Apple’s achilles heel. Its core libraries date back to the Next operating system that I coded on in the late 1980s and they aren’t keeping up. Apple is getting strangled by its own success. How can they do a major upgrade and provide a consistent core platform from the desktop to the phone when they’re making so much money on what they’ve already got? Revolutions don’t happen at the country club.
The bottom line for Anna and for many recruiters will be who can deliver apps that work well on multiple form factors. And if that in fact ends up as a key criteria for you, then Microsoft deserves consideration. Windows8 will serve as the operating system for everything from its phones to its surface tables to its desktops, and for the next generation of developers that will make it an attractive platform.
On the other hand (software developers have a lot of hands), price and a great app can mean everything. Disruption happens today at the user level, not at the RFP level. Both Google and Amazon are putting together spectacular products at prices below that of Microsoft and Apple.
In any case, have fun shopping. I know Anna and I will.