iPads and Chromebooks: A Glimpse into the future of Small Business IT

I remember the day that Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad. I remember watching the keynote saying that this is going to change things, just like the iPhone changed the mobile phone industry.

I bought one right out the gate. In fact, I think that year I bought my dad one as well as both of my siblings. However, I found myself “looking for a reason to use it” and eventually just put it into a drawer and forgotten about it. Throughout the years, I kept trying to fall in love with it, but every time I’d buy a new one, I’d end up not using it again and giving it away. I kept saying, I don’t use it because whether at home or at work I’d be less than ten feet away from a desktop so the need wasn’t there.

Seven years later, late last year, I decided to try again and purchased a 9.7” iPad Pro. I was doubtful that I’d actually use it other than when I was sitting on the couch watching TV. I was pleasantly surprised. The reverse had happened. Instead of not using the iPad in favor of my computers, I was using the iPad instead of my computers. In fact, at home for all of this year, that 9.7” iPad Pro, now a 10.5” iPad
Pro is the device that I’m on from the time that I wake up until the time that I go to bed. I even hardly touch my iPhone while I’m at home since everything also goes to my iPad.

I think there are several reasons for this but if I had to narrow it down to two: it’s the maturity of professional, desktop class apps and the fact that the cloud has become more prevalent in our lives, allowing us to access our data from whichever device we have in front of us.

Here’s the thing though, if you put my use case aside. I see the trend of iPad-like devices on the rise in the consumer technology market. In addition to Apple with their iPads, Google has their Chromebooks and now earlier this year, Microsoft came out with their Windows 10 S laptops. Despite these three giants having their own approaches to their own versions of next generation devices, I see a lot more in common with the three than you might think.

All three of these platforms restrict what you can install on them. In the case of iOS, you can only install apps from the App Store, in the case of Windows 10 S, the Windows Store and the Chromebooks you can’t install anything, you just have the Chrome browser. These restrictions make it almost impossible to install anything malicious on the devices. On top of that, they all update automatically and aside from Windows 10 S, Chromebooks and iOS backup automatically to the cloud. Can you see the trend, yet? The three biggest tech giants in the industry are creating manage-less devices. What happens when you physically break or lose one of these devices? You go and buy a new device, enter your login credentials, everything restores from the backup and you’re back to square one.

The reason that I’m so fascinated with these new era of devices is because I can see them impacting small businesses in a large way. Think about this, say a small business with 5-10 employees, instead of buying their employees traditional desktop computers, they bought them one of these devices instead with an LTE connection? And if you add to that a cloud based phone system such as Grasshopper or RingCentral, you would eliminate the need for an office network all together. No more ISPs, routers, firewalls, servers, switches, etc. Plus, since these devices are secure by default, you have a lot less reliance on IT people.

I’m the first one to admit that all the pieces aren’t quite in place yet. For instance, there will still be a need for printers and copiers to have some type of network connection. And the wireless providers need to be a lot less restrictive on data caps and data throttling. I do see the pieces falling into place sooner rather than later. If you look at the typical small business productivity software such as Office, Quickbooks, communication and file sharing and collaboration, all the biggest software providers have cloud and/or app equivalents of their products.

Something to think about.

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