In the 1980’s or even the early ‘90s you’d expect a desk to feature some Post-Its, a rolodex, calculator, fax, desk references, pads, paper and all sorts of bits and bobs cluttered around your computer. Oh how things have changed! Over the last 35 years we have seen notepads replaced by Evernote and OneNote; pin boards replaced by Pinterest and all manner of reference material replaced by Google.
So what’s next for the humble desktop? Let’s make a few predictions…
1. We’ll all stay in sync
It’s been coming for a while now, that ability to have your mobile, your tablet and your computer all tie in together and help you work collaboratively. Unified communications often give us the ability to push calls between our handset and our desk phone (assuming we still have one). Google synchronises Chrome, Exchange ActiveSync does email, contacts and calendar in Outlook, Apple does a whole pile of things if you operate within their ecosystem to allow your MacBook to make and receive calls via your iPhone. Still it’s not quite there.
Windows 10 took the next major step this year in bringing OneDrive into the operating system itself. Now My Documents and the very settings inside Windows can automatically sync between the cloud and my other OneDrive connected devices. It’s got its limitations, and it doesn’t necessarily work well with today’s corporate IT, but it’s much more than just synchronising a few settings.
In the future we’ll expect that our clouds will keep our devices in sync. We won’t tolerate the idea that a particular file or bit of information is on this device and not that one. It will all rely on the cloud, but it won’t require the public cloud. There will be many competing ecosystems for this synchronicity but they’ll each deliver in their own way broadly the same functionality.
Look for a massive increase in the update of file-sync-and-share in the Enterprise and the death of “mobile device management”. It will be about “user experience management” and we will expect software and technology to seamlessly manage our users’ settings, preferences and files across any and all devices and platforms.
2. There will be no more “single purpose devices”
Do we remember when everyone said that putting cameras on phones would never catch on because phones were for phoning and cameras were for taking pictures? WRONG!
Any device that doesn’t serve at least three uses will be banished from our lives as we struggle to regain some simplicity. We never did like that 1980’s clutter on our desk, we didn’t banish all those things to the virtual realm only to replace them with a bunch of new virtual things! Why can’t I Bluetooth pair my mobile with the speakers in my monitor to play some music while I’m working on my tablet?
Why do I need a different type of cable to connect everything on my desk to the point that it looks like I’ve given over my desktop to a new breed of snakes! Almost none of the major laptop makers still offer docking stations, but it’s not because I got tired of docking my laptop. There’s still the need to have a more comfortable keyboard and pointing device, bigger screen, more stable wired network connection, we just don’t want to deal with the cables!
In 2016 and beyond we’ll see USB Type-C and Thunderbolt proliferate and mean that finally everything connects with everything. Combined docking + charging stations will become the norm again and it will be a single cable.
Desk phones, non-network printers, copiers, scanners, speakers and all other single purpose devices will be replaced by smart phones, tablets, touch-screens, with wirelessly networked and cloud capable versions allowing everything to work together and adapt to changing needs and environments.
3. Security will be about the data, not the desktop
Whether it’s corporate laptops with iron shackles on them or mobile device management locking down phones and tablets, employees won’t tolerate it anymore. It’s like someone telling you that you can only use company issued paper and pens because they’re easier to managed and more secure. We’re not fooled. It’s not the special paper or magical disappearing ink that makes it secure, it’s what you put on it, where it goes and who can see it. Security is about the data you want to keep safe, not the paper and pens. New tools will be developed that manage the rights of data rather than the rights of users and software. The data and the software containers that store it will know who’s allowed to look, when they’re allowed to make copies, or where its allowed to be viewed. Think less spies with microfilm and more self-destructing messages.
In 2016 look for new solutions focused on data management. These tools will totally eclipse device management and become the new normal. Role and context based awareness will be baked into the data so that it knows when it’s in safe hands and when it should lock-down or even self-destruct.
4. We won’t have a work – life barrier anymore
From today’s extremes of traditional Germanic workers who have total separation between their work and personal spheres to traditional Asian workers who will often go on family vacations with their customers, there are wildly differing opinions about where professional stops and personal begins. We agonize over losing control of our “personal data” and yet spend our lives working for professional entities that keep detailed files on us which we cannot even view let alone control.
Whether it’s electronic health records, living resumes or just our database of contacts, we’re quickly moving towards a world in which all our data is networked but at the same time we have much more control over it. We work with our friends and we make friends at our work. We share personal experiences on Facebook and work experiences on LinkedIn with the same people!
The great wall is coming down. It’s not to say we’ll all be taking vacations with our customers, but the notion that we will not mix work and personal time or work and personal data is coming to an end. What’s on the other side of the wall? Well a cloud of course!
In 2016 look for more ability to mix personal and work devices without sacrificing data security or privacy. Improved user awareness around cyber and data security will become the new normal. Businesses won’t imagine that they “own” things like experiences or relationships and will see them for what they are, thing borrowed from their staff.
5. Our real desktop will be a cloud
Need a more powerful processor? More storage? A bigger screen? Better sound? Oh, you need to upgrade your device!
That’s 2015 talking.
In the future everything that makes up our desktop will be synced with, available from and connected to the cloud.
Need a bigger screen? Borrow it.
Need more processing power? It’s there, on-demand.
Better graphics? Check. Unlimited storage? Sorted. Sharing, presenting, collaborating? No rooms required. We’ll upgrade based on fashion and fidelity (screens), not performance or capability.
From 2016 the phrase “can you stop by my desk so I can show you something” will become archaic. We’ll be totally freed not only from our devices, but from our physical desktops themselves. Who needs a desk when we have the cloud? Any connected device will be able to “login” and get you to your desk. Some will make it easier than others, but they’ll all be able to do it. Working together, collaborating and sharing will become as natural as walking across the room. We’ll virtually toss documents and data back and forth at the speed of though and gather together in real-time around our cloud-desks to review and discuss.
Many people dismissed things like the Chromebook, with its “online only” mode of working, yet the growth numbers are there. I’m not saying we’ll see the end to offline working, but I do believe that our primary point of use will become the cloud. Offline will be the backup. The diesel generator for when the power goes out.
The future? Cloud.