Small Business and Mobile Computing

We are finally living in the future envisioned in the science fiction stories from the 1950s and 1960s, at least in terms of communications. We have mobile phones with video capabilities, and tablets that can practically do everything a home computer can, and then some. There are even companies, like Samsung and Apple, which are releasing smart watches that double as cell phones, like something out of Dick Tracy. These communication innovations haven’t just benefited people on a personal level, they also have tremendous potential in the business arena.

Business meeting and mobile computing

Business and Mobile Computing

Businesses, and especially small businesses, are shifting away from traditional office spaces. Instead, business owners are looking more toward shared offices, virtual office space, or just running their businesses out of their homes. Even if a company does have a traditional dedicated space, there are more workers who might need to spend some or all of their work days away from the office. There are also those industries, like the construction industry, where a majority of the work has always been done outside of the office environment.

Early mobile office devices were pagers and cell phones with nothing more than numeric capabilities, and laptops that were often as heavy and cumbersome as the desktops they were designed to replace. Over the years, advances in mobile phone technology have led to smart phones and tablets. Laptops got smaller and faster, and also gained the capability of performing many functions wirelessly, but in many ways business applications and software still had some catching up to do.

Business Applications and Software

The main drawback to most business applications and software is that it wasn’t always easy to share data in real-time if you weren’t connected to the office network. As a result people had to use work-arounds, many of which were not completely effective.

For example, if the project manager at a construction company had to communicate blueprint changes to the crew at the constructions site, he might have to email the changes and hope that everyone successfully received the email. Or he would have to update the file on the company server, and hope that the people in the field are able to access the company server remotely and get the updates.

Cloud working

Today, more companies are looking at ways to utilize cloud servers as a means of sharing information in real time, without the user having to jump through too many hoops to access that information. One iteration of this, the iPad construction app by Procore allows construction crews to share information directly through the app on a simple Wi-Fi connection. They don’t have to log directly onto the company’s servers, and they don’t have to search through multiple directories for the information they need.

Even mainstream software developers are getting into the act, such as Microsoft office 365, which allows users to create, edit, store, and share Microsoft Office documents online. So if Joe in accounting has created an Access database of profit and loss, he can access that information from anywhere that he has an internet connection, and so can anyone else he wants to grant permission to.

The Future of Mobile Computer for Businesses

Technology manufacturers are already developing tablets that can replace laptops, and convertible devices that can become either a tablet or laptop as needed. They are also working do expand the functionality of the watch devices.

iPad-powered mobile office
photo credit: Kent Manning

Software manufacturers are also creating more mobile versions of the software, so that users can get work done from any place, and any device.

The traditional laptop, and even the desktop computer, could become a thing of the past as more people transition to mobile computing.