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GE Capital's CTO sees the death of PCs, the rise of phablets

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 11, 2014
Eric Reed envisions more people moving to a single mobile device.

"We're seeing a lot more collaboration from people in industry who have been rivals," he said. "In order for this [convergence to a phablet form factor] to work, the old barriers have to break down...."

Reed has been working as an engineer at GE in various roles for 24 years, first on the industrial side and later on the financial services side. He's seen a lot, and recalls a number of devices that were designed to allow smartphones to be docked and used as tablets or 2-in-1's or laptops. Asus, Motorola and even the defunct Palm have tried different ideas through the years, but they never caught on.

The main difficulty is that software vendors or enterprises who build their own apps need to adapt their software to run on a platform that allows docking of a phablet, or many different phablets on different OSes, with other components.

Wireless Bluetooth is one way connections between phablets and components can be made, but it's not necessarily the best or only way.

"I'm seeing a lot more people carrying phablets around and the drive behind that is just that we love to consume content and it's easier to do so on a bigger screen," he said. "People want to do more and are tired of scrolling on a small device, while a tablet won't fit into a pocket or purse. I'm seeing a lot more people carrying phablets, because you still make a phone call on it."

Too big, too small or just right
Reed agreed with many analysts who have studied evolving mobile form factors and say that a phablet is still too small to create or edit a spreadsheet. But there are many productivity apps that will run on a phablet, with more to come. "I'm not sure we've seen the killer app yet. But the other day I downloaded an app to an iPad that made me think, as the space gets more mature, productivity apps will get off the ground and be practical on one device like a phablet."

The way enterprises should approach phablets is to create apps for workers and customers by "thinking mobile first, and not as an afterthought."

Reed's view that the large smartphone will evolve into a kind of hub device might not be shared by all, but he bases it on his own experiences and his own hardware arsenal.

"I carry a lot of stuff, including a company-issued phone, a company-issued laptop, a personal phone not for work and a personal iPad with a software container that separates work from personal," he said.

On many trips, he can get by with the iPad for PowerPoint and other presentations. His work smartphone is the Galaxy S5, which has a 5.1-in. display, putting it just shy of the 5.5-in. size most analysts believe quality as a phablet. He also has a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard that works with the iPad for typing longer documents, which he said is "easier to use than the onscreen keyboard."

 

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