**As published in RCR Wireless News** SAN DIEGO – What equipment a company decides to outfit its workforce with will be one of its most important and lasting decisions. It can also be particularly challenging if the company is aiming to put a virtual office in the pocket of its employees. On the closing day of Gartner’s Wireless, Networking and Communications Summit, the analyst firm’s research VP, Leslie Fiering, delivered a presentation that delved into the factors that impact the potential effectiveness of an office-in-your-pocket solution, how it can be matched with user requirements and how office-in-your-pocket solutions will evolve over the next five years. In short, there isn’t much Fiering expects to not see change in the next couple years. Taking Moore’s Law into account and keeping in mind which notebooks and cellphones were the most popular five years ago should be all the convincing one needs: office-in-your-pocket solutions evolve in an equally dramatic and rapid fashion.
The more well-versed enterprise mobility managers already understand that different mobile work styles have different requirements and tolerances for trade-offs, Fiering said, adding that “all devices are not created equal.” The value proposition at one end of the spectrum is pocketability, she said. “We’re willing to give up functionality for this high availability.” The fully functional, larger devices are at the other end of the spectrum. The biggest challenge lies in matching the right device to the task at hand. “You don’t have one-size-fits-all so look at what your workers are doing … before you make any judgments on what to do,” Fiering said. “As you need more functionality, you’re probably going to have to go to a bigger device,” she said. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to look at what you’re trying to do with your device, what people’s tasks are … in order to make a decision on what is a viable office in your pocket.” Most smartphones are more than sufficient for light e-mail, casual Web browsing and quick document viewing, she added. But after spending a full day or two away from the office or a fully-equipped notebook, it becomes increasingly difficult for office-in-your-pocket solutions to make do on their own. And that’s exactly why Fiering advised businesses to plan on outfitting their workforce with at least two types of devices – a small, high availability communication device and a larger, fully-functioning device – through at least 2015. It won’t be long before smartphones have the same level of computing power that notebooks had just a few years ago, Fiering said, but for now, “screen size is destiny.” Although smaller screens may limit productivity in some instances now, Fiering predicts screens will be more common and nimble by 2015. “Screens are going to be peripherated – they’re going to be everywhere,” she said. “We’re going to have opportunistic connectivity to screens” within five years, she said. The watershed moment will occur when wireless transmission of video (negating the need for a USB connection) becomes a common and highly adopted technology standard. Because of this rise in peripherals and connectivity, she predicts a smartphone-sized device will soon carry the full computing power needed for a PC. “We’re really going to see a radical difference and change in how we define a PC,” Fiering added. “I truly believe that we will see viable instances that make it really clear what this will look like by 2015. But I don’t think it will be mainstream by then, I think it will take longer to be mainstream,” she continued. Like all things in tech though, there is no foregone conclusion on what will hit mass market. Fiering addressed this by identifying one of the biggest unresolved issues of all and one that will compound in difficulty as the years go by: power. In conclusion, she called it “the elephant in the room because these devices are going to suck juice.”