04-10-2018 | | By Christian Cawley
The desktop PC has supposedly been dying for years. But one look around the office shows that it is alive and well. But could the humble smartphone be the greatest weapon against desktops, and even laptops?
The Ultimate Bring Your Own Device
Corporations and organisations in the public sector have introduced hot desking and BYOD schemes in recent years. As connectivity improves, and the requirement to work in the office at all times is less vital, so space is repurposed. Desk space becomes a premium, with canteens and nearby coffee shops a more convenient option for colleagues demanding an improved work-life balance.
But what if all of this was possible using just your phone? We're already at the stage where foldable devices are looking likely, but even before they arrive, it's possible to use a smartphone as a PC.
At this stage, you'll need a monitor to connect it to, and often a docking station for USB hardware. For several years Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile devices have supported Continuum, enabling them to be plugged into a monitor and used like a computer.
They're not alone. Currently, iOS is the only mobile operating system that doesn't offer the ability to use the phone as a computer. Although Android users have other options, the main choice is presented on Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S9, Note 8, Note 9, and Tab S4 devices.
DeX brings a full screen desktop experience, with a single cable to connect the phone to a HDMI monitor. With a focus on productivity, Samsung clearly believes that the office is moving to the pocket.
Mobile Office in Your Pocket
Whether the choice is for Microsoft's apparently dying option or Samsung's iPhone-beating Android devices (or even the remnants of Ubuntu Touch, which features Convergence, another phone-to-PC conversion), the end result is the same.
With a phone plugged into a monitor, wireless mouse and keyboard connected, access to a browser, email app, and office tools, as well as a bit of social networking, to all intents and purposes the phone has become a PC.
A PC that can be disconnected, and placed into its owner's pocket at 5pm. It's game-changing.
Cut Back on the IT Hardware Budget
Home computers in the office drove their adoption at home; mobile phones such as the BlackBerry, and PDAs from Dell, HP, and others, drove the success of smartphones (and told Apple that there was a market for the iPhone).
A typical hardware budget features a chunk dedicated to desktop and laptop PCs, the latter usually workmanlike notebooks, but with the occasional ultrabook thrown in. While specialists are likely to keep hold of their PCs for longer, the power of the modern mobile can not only replace the desktop, it can shrink the IT budget.
Only monitors, keyboards, mice, and printers are required. A bit of networking, of course. But no more PCs, few laptops, and almost zero requirement for hardware support.
Apps on the Desktop
Some apps are better than desktop software; the reverse is also true. But if DeX, Continuum, or even Convergence are to have any genuine impact in the office, app developers will need to begin supporting the new dynamic.
Touchscreen monitors might be more ideal, but few can see them becoming a reality. Certainly Samsung, Microsoft, and the team maintaining Ubuntu Touch don't see touchscreen monitors littering office desks in the near future. Each platform demands a keyboard and mouse be attached, either using the phone itself, of connected over Bluetooth or USB hub.
For business-focused apps to be embraced by this new way of working, they'll need to be friendly to mouse and keyboard input.
Personal PCs for Everyone
Just as the office desktop inspired people around the world to buy a home PC, or laptop, so the PC in a smartphone can change the dynamic once again.
Turning smartphones into PCs represents a genuine paradigm shift. It will change the way we work, but it needs a trigger.
Hot-desking and BYOD initiatives could be just the trigger that is needed to finally say goodbye to the desktop PC.