South Morrisey Embraces Mobile Devices

The Latest technology buzzword is Mobility, and devices continue to get smaller and lighter, while being able to do a lot more for you on the go. Every week more devices flood the market and others disappear. People regularly ask me if they can replace their computer by buying a tablet device such as the iPad, while others wonder why anyone would want a 10 Inch device that does little more than a mobile phone yet won’t fit in a pocket.

If you are like me, you will have a desktop computer at home that is probably working away and can handle any task you ever want to throw at it – from editing family photographs to creating DVD albums at Christmas, a laptop that is really too heavy to carry for long (due to the 6 hour battery, 17 inch touchscreen, 6GB memory, premium sound speakers etc.), an iPad, a Kindle book reader and a touch screen Blackberry smart phone. I tried the Blackberry Playbook but it really didn’t have the range of applications that the iPad could offer – otherwise I would have preferred it to the iPad.
Having said all of this, why do I have so many devices? What strengths and weaknesses does each device have? Which should you choose? The market is confusing and getting worse as some companies invent new terms to amplify their market differentials such as Chrome books and Smart Books.
As I talk about each of these devices I have categorized them into similar species highlighting the benefits and deficiencies of each so that you can decide what suits your needs. 
  1. Laptop / Notebook
  2. Netbook /Chrome Book /Smart book
  3. Tablets
  4. Mobile Phone / Smart Phone
  5. Hybrid Machines
  6. e-Book reader
Choosing the “best” mobile computing device requires knowing what you want out of it. Smartphones are the best choice for more phone features, and laptops are the best choice for running powerful and high performance computer applications. The other categories sit somewhere in between these two.
Laptop Computers
The laptop, or notebook as it is also called, is the most widely recognised and understood mobile computing device available. While most people keep laptops in special protective bags, laptops can pretty easily go on the road with you without needing much additional setup. Laptops can be roughly categorized into three different categories: desktop replacements, general purpose machines, and ultra-portable devices.
The desktop replacement is, as the name suggests, an alternative to a desktop computer that sports the same power but in a mobile form.
The general purpose laptop is smaller and lighter than a desktop replacement, but also bigger and heavier than an ultraportable and it has more processing power than an ultraportable.
The ultraportable category includes all those slim and sexy models that people like to show off in executive departure lounges, or the hotel lobby. An ultraportable notebook is generally well under 2kg in weight, and tends to sport a screen that is 13.3-inch or smaller.
The ultra-portable category will merge into the netbook category, from a size and weight perspective, however there is hardware you will find on a laptop that you will not on a netbook. You should expect to see a DVD writer built in, at least two USB ports, integrated WiFi and possibly Bluetooth. It's pretty common to see a webcam built into the lid to facilitate video conferencing too.
Pros: Many laptops are as powerful as regular desktop computers and still conveniently fit in a backpack. They can access the internet, play CDs and DVDs, and run most popular programs.
Cons: The downside of laptops is the size and weight. They’re certainly not as convenient to carry on your person as a smartphone, for example.
Netbook Computer
The important thing to remember about a netbook is that no matter what size it is, or how good the screen, it's still limited by the hardware inside it. Most netbooks come equipped with a lower processor and are limited to 1GB of RAM; the reason for the lower RAM is that in order to qualify for a cut price "netbook edition" of Windows, Microsoft specifies that a netbook cannot ship with more than 1GB!  However you may be able to upgrade the memory post purchase. Netbooks will also have built in WiFi capability and you can get USB devices to add more processing capacity.
Even with more memory, a netbook is still suited to basic computing duties, such as email, web browsing and basic document creation. So, if you're looking to buy a computer that you can use to edit your home movies and photos, a netbook simply won't be up to the job.
Netbooks were designed as ultra-portable versions of laptops, focusing on accessing the internet and doing basic computer functions. They work very much like laptop computers but save a lot of weight and size by not using CD or DVD drives. Netbooks look like small versions of laptops and weigh only a few pounds.
Pros: A netbook can do almost all the same things that a Windows laptop can do. You can install programs, respond to email, and do the majority of your home computing work. And because netbooks are basically lightweight computers, you could use one as a stand-alone home computer solution if you wish.
Cons: Netbooks are great as ultra-portable laptops, but they don’t actually do anything better or faster than laptops. If you want a fast computing experience, you might find netbooks to be slow or clumsy. And while the keyboard is very comfortable, you may still find the screen small for long-term viewing.
A smartphone is the simplest of the mobile computing device types. Smartphones offer the usual mobile phone service, enhanced with other, computer-like functionality. They run programs called “apps” and use a mobile web browser to access the internet. Apps are designed by third parties, which means you can find a tool for just about anything at this point. Smartphones can access the internet using wireless signals from mobile phone carriers (3G), although they can also use WiFi connections.
Pros: Smartphones are as mobile and convenient as you can get. Most smartphones fit effortlessly in a pocket. They can carry a charge for 4 to 12 hours, depending on how much you use your phone. The variety of apps created by third parties means you can find hundreds of games, productivity tools, and other gadgets. Most smartphones can access web tools like Google Docs, allowing you to stay productive even while on the road.
Cons: The small size and portability of a smartphone is also its drawback. Smartphones have capabilities that emulate keyboards and mice, but the built-in functionality isn’t as comfortable for long-term use. Obviously, the screen on a smartphone is much smaller than that of a computer monitor. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of smartphone, but when you’re really doing head-down work, you’ll find a smartphone somewhat inconvenient. Also, many smartphones require a full home computer to sync and manage their content, which means smartphones can’t be a stand-alone solution to your computing needs.
Tablet PC
A tablet device has obvious limitations. You're not going to want to write a long document on one, like you could on a notebook or even a netbook, because it doesn't have a keyboard. You could add an optional Bluetooth keyboard but then you have something the size and weight of a netbook with less functionality. Like mobile phones they are capable of both 3G and WiFi connectivity.
As always it comes down to what you're looking for from a mobile device. If you just want to use email, browse the web, watch videos and read the odd eBook, or even read and annotate meeting agendas or minutes, then a tablet makes a decent case for itself.
Tablet computers are very similar to smartphones but on a larger scale. A tablet computer can slide easily into most bags and weighs only a few pounds. You can think of tablets as bigger, more powerful smartphones.
Pros: Tablets are great for doing light work on the road because you can access all the same tools you use with a smartphone. However, because a tablet is larger it offers a more comfortable viewing experience than your smartphone.
Cons: Tablets are more capable and comfortable than a smartphone but are still restricted by the design of their manufacturer. You can’t just plug in an installation disk and run any program. And while tablets are comfortable for more work than a smartphone, you might still find touchscreen keyboards troublesome for marathon sessions. Like smartphones, many tablets still require a home computer to manage content and apps, so you may not be able to use a tablet computer as a stand-alone solution.
Hybrids are devices that take the advantage of one or more mobile devices with a little twist of their own. Good examples are the Amazon tablet that will be targeted at a niche audience, or the Asus transformer which is a tablet that can truly replace a netbook or ultra-portable laptop. With a keyboard that can be attached or disengaged, it's a slim, fairly light tablet with a great touchscreen. With the dock in-tow, it's a typing demon whose battery will outlast almost any laptop you can find. The Asus Transformer is an Android tablet that employs Asus's netbook expertise, including a keyboard dock that not only makes typing easier - it also doubles the battery life and boosts connectivity. Each hybrid device will have its own target audience and different Pros and Cons. These are best left for the individual to decide for themselves
E-Book readers
This category does not really belong in this article; however I have included it because of the number of people that confuse them with tablet devices. There are e-book reader applications that will run on all of the devices mentioned in this article, thus enabling you to read documents, magazines and books on all devices. The dedicated e-book reader device is usually differentiated by a paper ink screen. Paper ink is a display technology which is designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike conventional backlit flat panel displays, electronic paper displays reflect light like ordinary paper. Many of the technologies can hold static text and images indefinitely without using electricity, while allowing images to be changed later. This makes e-readers far easier to read under the same circumstances that you could read paper – such as in full sun. There are some e-readers that do not have the e-ink technology, however these should be considered as hybrid tablets, rather than e-readers.
How will it turn out?
In the smartphone market, you have to wonder how well the competing companies are able to market against each other to emphasize their strengths and exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Fortunately a lot of phone users are already demonstrating strong brand loyalty.
The game is more wide open in the tablet arena. Companies like ASUS are targeting Apple’s weak spots in productivity and hardware choices. Hewlett-Packard tried to combine its long experience in tablet hardware with Palm’s webOS to create a tablet with much better multi-tasking and business features, but pulled out of the mobile phone and tablet market in August 2011. Android will have a lot more devices and a lot more companies pushing its devices, so it will ultimately grab greater market share in smartphones, although Apple is very competitive on price (unlike in the Mac vs. PC battles of 1980s and 1990s), so it won’t just be relegated to the high end of the market. It will take a much larger chunk of market share than it did in the PC wars. Apple already has a huge lead with the surprising success of the iPad, but I feel Android and others will start to eat into that cushion in 2011, especially as Blackberry starts to support Android and all the old HP tablets are converted to run an Android operating system.
What about Microsoft, HP, BlackBerry and Nokia?
Computer giant Hewlett-Packard has already pulled out of the tablet and mobile phone market after poor sales of its products and stiff competition from rivals Apple and Google. Unfortunately, it looks like the other three of these are on the wrong side of history in the mobile wars. These guys are all going to be reduced to challenger status in 2011. They’ll be on the outside looking in. Both Microsoft (with Windows Phone 7) and HP (with Palm webOS) could have snatched some of the momentum away from Apple and Google a year ago in the smartphone market, but they’re a little late now. Even though they had solid products, their timing is off and HP has already fallen to the side lines.
As for BlackBerry and Nokia, they both have a large installed base of customers to draw on and build from, but it’s not going to be enough to stem their losses in 2011. They are both too far behind when it comes to product innovation. Oh sure, they will continue to hold on to nice chunks of old market share in some places, but both will likely continue their decline at accelerating rates in 2011.


Paul Archer - Director of Research and Development




-Paul Archer, Director of Research & Development



Paul has been an indispensable resource at iCompass since 2005, his previous position being an Application Development Manager at Nottingham County Council in the UK. His experience in product development throughout his career and his strong business development skills continue to support the company's growth objectives.

His focus is on driving product development strategy with a tight focus to ensure the product is in alignment with the "jobs" the customers do, release satisfaction through product testing, and attention to security, performance, scalability, maintainability and usability.

He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree, Post Graduate Teaching qualifications in Computing and has participated in numerous Computing related courses throughout his career, including Microsoft certifications, Oracle certification, Crystal reports, and has delivered teaching courses up to Higer National diploma level. He keeps busy with an active social life in Kamloops with his wife, Julie, and is a Director of the Board of Local Economic Development Organization and has sat as the President of the Interior Technology Industry Association for the past year. 

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