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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.

Pilot programs at GE Capital have also revealed what technology won't work out so well.

The move to mobile is bumpy< br> "Mobilization at GE hasn't been a breeze, and we, like most enterprises, were surprised how quickly some of the tablet stuff came in, so that was a really big learning point," he said. "Was it smooth and breezy? Absolutely not. We learned to be better at anticipating where things are going and better at adopting things quickly. We're quicker at getting them in and using them.... My team is guinea pigs for a lot of things and then we expand to let the business try something, or stop it and move on."

The percentage of different smartphone OSes in use at GE is roughly similar to the market at large, he said, although BlackBerry users are "still a large group for those that want a physical keyboard.... We cover the landscape from BlackBerry to iPhone to Android devices."

In addition to company-issued devices, those workers with Bring-Your-Own-Device smartphones and tablets are required to have their work kept in an encrypted container, which means it can wiped clean remotely if the device is lost or stolen.

Reed's prediction about the rise of phablets in three to five years is not shared universally.

"We've been hearing the PC is dead for years, but this talk is a continuation of the trend to mobile computing started when desktops went to laptops," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"The question is not so much is the PC dead, but are we evolving in our use of mobile computing and have different needs than we did 10 years ago," Gold added. "Form follows function. And with all that said, word processing is never going to go away, nor will email, nor spreadsheets. Yes, a lot of people who have minimal use of those functions are very happy with just a smartphone. So it's not so much is the PC dead, but how our computing needs are changing."

One example of that is how messages delivered at work have become shorter and less business-like in recent years, Gold said.

"There's a lot more informality now. Ten years ago, I would write a long memo to my boss explaining why I need to go on a business trip. Today, we just send a text that says, 'I need to go to MWC,' with no explanation really of why I'm going or so forth. So informality in communications is a bigger issue. Mobility is changing how we communicate."

In short, you might not want to bet on Reed's prediction. But given what he's dealing with every day, on a large scale, you shouldn't dismiss it out of hand, either.

 

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