Blog post

Going Laptopless

By Tom Bittman | April 05, 2011 | 2 Comments

Industry AnalystFuture of InfrastructureEducationCloud

I’m a knowledge worker. I’m in Copenhagen, on business. My laptop is in Connecticut. And I’m OK with that.

arrow downNow let me preface this by saying as an analyst, I don’t cover client computing, or PCs or tablet computers. I’m writing this as Joe Knowledge Worker. Even so, I’m going to avoid using product brand names. I’m not promoting a specific product. But I am promoting a new way of getting things done.

I know I’m not the first to have this aha moment, and that’s a bit of a sore point with me. I still have a working 8080 system from the early 1970s. I bought IBM’s first PC when it came out. I bought IBM’s first laptop computer – the PC Convertible – in 1986 (and yes, still have it and it still works). I jumped on the Palm Pilot as soon as it was available. I consider myself an early adopter. When it comes to tablet computers, however, my son is the early adopter and the pioneer. He’s been using his tablet computer in high school for a year now, and trying to convince me that it would work for me, too. I didn’t see it then, but I do now.

I tried it, on two business trips. The first one, I pulled out the tablet computer and played a little with it. Still, I did most of my work on the laptop. Second trip, my laptop battery died on a flight. I wrote a complete research note on the tablet. Suddenly, work was getting done, and without a laptop.

I’m in love. I love the lo-ong battery life. I love the tactile user interface. I love the super-thin size and portability. These three are huge for a traveler.

There are trade-offs. A physical keyboard is helpful, but I’m finding that to be a non-issue, and possibly more of a rut than a need. A DVD player is nice to watch shows when away from home – but Netflix works just fine instead. A data warehouse on a hard disk is nice, but do I really need all of those files with me? Cloud storage works great when I’m connected – which is very often – and I have plenty of memory for offline files. Showing presentations? I have the adaptor, and it works perfectly.

I’m an inveterate planner and organizer. Spreadsheets and lists that used to live on my laptop don’t live there anymore. It’s all on the tablet. Frankly, at this point, there are only a few things that really require my laptop – and I’m working to reduce that, too.

So, I’m in Europe and away from the office for four days, and work has not stopped, and I’m not searching every airport for outlets to give my laptop a little more juice, and my backpack is extremely light (and probably unnecessary now), and I may actually do more “knowledge work” on my tablet computer on this trip than I would have with a laptop. And, of course, I’ve just posted my first blog entry from my tablet.

I’ve only had this device for about three weeks, but I suspect that bringing the laptop on trips will be the exception going forward. Not quite an early adopter – but I’m all in now.

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  • Rebecca Gatehouse says:

    Enjoyable reading. I yearn for the day I do my short trips without hauling the laptop in and out of plane, security, taxis. But with the confidence I can do the work I need to get done. There is always some reason I think I need the laptop. It seems the day might be here soon.

  • Jay McCall says:

    Great article, Tom. I’m an editor at a B2B publication, and I’m currently going through the same process. My last trade show trip I tried bringing both the laptop and the tablet, which was a bit cumbersome. I just got the iPad earlier this year (very late adopter, I know), so I’m still trying to figure out how to make this transition. I agree that cloud services (DropBox and SkyDrive) are a big help. I think the step that’s going to be the clincher for me to fully transition over is if I can find a Bluetooth keyboard that works well and is easy to use. Also, I need to find the best way to open and edit Word docs and Excel spreadsheets on the iPad. Not sure the best app or workaround to making that happen yet. If you have any advice about this, I’d love to hear it.