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The Tail and the Dog Have Officially Traded Places
I got my clearest image of how our field has changed last Friday at the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, when I went to pick up my new iPhone 6. Even though I got there at five minutes after the 10 AM opening (no, I didn't camp out) there were already 60 people ahead in the pre-order line and a few hundred in the "you mean you can pre-order an iPhone?" line. There were a couple of glitches in the set-up (I was using one of the other upgrades on our account), but I was on my way in an hour and a half.
I had two items of business at the mall that morning, the other being a visit to the Microsoft store to see if I could get a problem with Outlook for Mac fixed. Coincidentally, the Microsoft store was just a few doors down and was bright and nicely decorated, and provided a great place to store all of those unsold Surface tablets. Probably the neatest fixture was a wall-sized monitor (actually a bunch of monitors hooked together) that allowed visitors to play X-Box games on the biggest display you'll ever see. Unlike the Apple store, there was no need to hire security guards to keep the crowds in check.
Despite the fact that store personnel outnumbered customers by about three-to-one, they couldn't give me an appointment for someone to look at my Outlook problem for two hours. I went out to lunch and did some other errands and came back two hours later to find the same lack of activity, though a different bunch of kids were playing at the X-Box wall. A very nice technician spent a half an hour messing around with Outlook (when I open the "Accounts" screen all I get is a big white box so I can't add or delete email accounts) before deciding he couldn't fix it. He did suggest that anytime Outlook crashes, I should hit the "Send report to Microsoft" button and eventually someone would fix it. Outlook crashes a couple of times a week, so I'm sure they'll be getting a lot of chances.
Sure, we need that good old keyboard for grinding out serious work, but as soon as we can, we're grabbing that smartphone or tablet. I don't see either of these platforms disappearing anytime soon, but clearly the one that is occupying the bulk of our time is the mobile.
Apple has gotten that message and is building some interesting capabilities into its software. One neat feature of iOS8 is "Handoffs" or "Continuity." While currently available only on mobile devices running iOS8, Handoffs allows you to start a task on one device, say your iPhone, and continue it on another iOS device like your iPad. When Yosemite, the next version of OS X comes out later this year, you'll be able to start a task on your desktop or laptop and continue it on any of your iOS devices.
Apple had started this earlier with Messenger, Apple's IP messaging system. Any of your OS X or iOS devices that are registered to your iCloud account see all of your sent and received messages. Besides having the entire message string available at any time, it's also nice to be able to text straight from your desktop without having to pick up your smartphone--and the keyboard's a lot better! Another add-on with Yosemite will be the ability to tether your iPhone to your Mac and then you will be able to send and receive SMS messages as well as Apple Messenger messages.
Our personal electronics have become a necessary extension of both our personal and business lives. However, we will be switching among these tools as we go through the day, and will need to access what we need on whatever device is available. So just as unified communications has essentially "unified" all of your real time and non-real time communications, the next phase is to seamlessly move among our various devices to remain productive throughout the day. And once again, it appears the consumer mobile experience is driving the change.