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Rethinking PCs and smartphones in a post-COVID-19 world


Disclosure:  Most of the companies mentioned are clients of the author.

Personal technology started with terminals, typewriters and wired analog phones. Security was a simple concern, mobility was something out of science fiction, and we pretty much leased everything. Put  differently, everything was a service. From the 1960s until now, we have been trying – largely unsuccessfully – to get back to that simpler time when we didn’t have to be a technician, things just worked, and we could focus more on our businesses, less on and keeping technology running. 

As the world moved from mainframes to PCs, from wired phones to smartphones, and as we layered on complexity, we often lost focus on what was important. For instance, 50-plus years ago our biggest driving concern was grandparents – who liked to look at us in the back seat while they drove – and drunk drivers. Now, we fear death from the person one car over looking at a smartphone, not the road.

We spend time now with our faces buried in screens: big screens, movie screens, small screens – especially now. The COVID-19 event, and we are only coming to the end of the beginning, is likely to be with us for at least a year longer, and it is already changing priorities. We are more concerned about people around us; we need to engage from a distance because we are working remotely. We aren’t traveling or going out, so sharing everything we do on Social Media isn’t as interesting. And we look longingly at movies, TV, and pictures of a world that once was.

It’s a world we weren’t experiencing fully before the outbreak, and now miss.

I think recent changes in behavior are going to have a material impact on future technology. This week, I listened to BlackBerry CEO John Chen and his vision for his firm and products. It reminded me a lot of how the world was when IBM was dominant and, looking at this week’s IBM financials, I think both firms are pivoting to a future we may not grasp for a few years.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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