When Microsoft showed us its all-in-one, Lumia 950 phone-come-PC last year, it seemed more concept than reality. But now with the launch of the new HP Elite x3, the concept has become mainstream and I, for one, think we’re looking at the future of mobile computing.
The fundamental concept of a single ‘do everything’ device is nothing new, but until recently it’s been unrealistic for most.
So what’s changed?
As more and more organisations move to Office 365 and line of business applications also move to the cloud, it’s become practical to run your computing life on a device without an enormous hard disk – with most of your data in the cloud, where it’s secure, available and backed up.
At the same time, smartphone processors and batteries have improved, and continue to do so, to the point at which they can support the needs of a ‘do everything’ mobile device. Certainly, at my own organisation 98% of people only use Microsoft Office (delivered through Office 365), web and one or two business applications, also delivered from the cloud. This is not a massively-demanding use case, and a modern phone is more than capable of delivering the raw power needed.
Thirdly, and this is what last year’s memorable Lumia 950 demo was really all about, the Windows 10 feature Continuum enables your Windows Mobile phone to also run as a PC. Use a dock or connect wirelessly to a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and then Word, Excel, Outlook and other apps scale to provide a Windows 10 look and feel on a full-size screen. As yet, it’s still a Windows Mobile OS driving this, so there are some restrictions on functionality, such as being unable to edit pivot tables or to view 3D charts in Excel.
Clearly one device has massive user appeal: for all too many people, mobile working has come to mean carrying around a laptop, a smartphone and, for some, a tablet as well. That’s two or three devices to weigh down your bag, along with all the chargers and cables that go with them.
However, there’s also enormous appeal for IT and the business. It promises to eliminate a lot of hassle and cost from device management. We’re not just talking about fewer devices, but a reduction in the number of iOS and Android devices (which will see most support teams whooping with joy!) and, in time, the possibility of returning to a Windows-only estate.
It also offers a significant reduction in procurement costs. Today’s typical mobile user already has a decent smartphone along with full-spec laptop plus docking station, monitor, keyboard and mouse at an office location. While a dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse will remain necessary, we can eliminate the cost of a full-spec laptop.
The HP Elite x3
HP’s Elite x3 is due to launch in the next few weeks, and looks set to move Continuum into the mainstream and redefine the standard of mobile computing for a whole class of knowledge workers.
I had a prelaunch taste of the HP Elite x3 last week, and was very impressed with what I touched and saw. The Elite x3 is about the same size an iPhone 6 Plus, the screen is bright and clear and HP seems to have achieved the impossible in making it both stylish and robust. I’m told its IP67 rating means it can survive 30 minutes in a metre and half of water and it is US military drop tested to 4 feet, so it’s not far off being completely ‘user proof’.
I really liked the inclusion of a fingerprint reader (on the back) and iris scanner: providing in-built two factor security without a token, for additional cost saving.
Another nice touch is the dual-SIM capability – enabling those that also carry a personal phone to dispense with yet another device.
As well as the phone and dock, HP also offers what it calls a ‘Lap Dock’. This is a sort of thin client laptop that pairs with the Elite x3, so you have a keyboard, mouse and bigger screen on the move. To me it seemed a little unnecessary and contrary to the single device concept. I think truly mobile users will be happy to work from the Elite x3 when out of the office. That said, I guess it’s a useful objection-handling tool for IT, if it’s trying to sell the idea of the Elite x3 to more change-resistant users.
Looking to the future
Looking further ahead, Lenovo has already demonstrated its bendable screen technology which opens up the possibility of wearing your phone like a wrist watch. Combine that with Continuum and in years to come we could be wearing, rather than carrying, that single do-anything device.
Back in the here and now, replacing all your gadgets with one phone is massively appealing – both to end users in terms of convenience, and to IT staff in terms of manageability and cost savings.
I believe, 100%, that the next evolution in end-user IT must be combining all devices into one phone, with long battery life and everything stored in the cloud. The HP Elite x3 is the first time that dream has become a practical reality.
If you’d like to see the HP Elite x3 for yourself talk to Total to arrange a free of charge loan.