Get used to it: The post-PC employee has arrived

Forrester survey shows that the future is now when it comes to use of personal computing for work

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More people choose or bring their own PCs than you'd think. Fifty-four percent of laptop users chose their work laptop themselves, versus 27 percent for PC users, 71 percent for tablet users, and 75 percent for smartphone users. The savvy Forrester analyst Ted Schadler, who wrote the report, tells me, "There are several reasons for that. The first is that people do use home computers for work, even it's not their primary computer. This has often been overlooked in the analysis. In other words, 'BYOPC' has been going on a long time. Why? For the simple reason that people use whatever tools they have to get work done. If they can't get corporate email on a home computer (and in fact many people can using Outlook Web Access), they can still create documents, learn online, check in with work colleagues on Facebook, watch or create YouTube videos for work, etc."

Tablets will be a big proportion of computing devices in use. There will be 900 million tablets in use for work and personal purposes by 2017 -- compared to my estimate of about 2 billion traditional PCs (desktops and laptops). That's roughly 2:5 ratio of tablets to PCs, assuming the slowdown in PC sales doesn't accelerate further -- a huge shift in the device balance. "If you look at the long tail of applications on tablets, and the fact that on a percentage basis people are much more likely to use an app on a tablet than smartphone, the trend is clear: Tablets will replace computers for more and more applications and tasks," Schadler says.

Cloud storage and data syncing is commonplace. Cloud storage services such as Dropbox and Box are used by 22 percent of information workers today, and 70 percent of those workers access these storage services for work data. With Microsoft adopting its SkyDrive cloud storage as part of Office 2013, the notion of cloud storage that straddles work and home use is now the default assumption for productivity apps -- sorry, IT traditionalists! It should be noted Apple went there with iCloud Documents last summer, and many mobile office productivity apps come pre-integrated with Dropbox and Box access.

IT must plan on sourcing technology from Apple and the Google Android ecosystem. The two consumer-oriented providers will be major providers of the hardware people expect to rely on (mainly Apple for tablets and both Apple and Android vendors for smartphones), as well as on the related services and apps. Many if not most of those apps will be bought and brought in by employees. "There is little chance that all of these apps [that the survey showed are already in use] are company-provided. ... To me, this is a clear sign of consumerization at work," Schadler says.

Microsoft's role as an IT provider is its to lose. Microsoft's role as an IT provider will shrink as PC usage declines, but it has a chance to maintain a significant presence with its Windows tablets. Although Windows RT and 8 tablet have sold poorly so far, as many information workers wanted a Windows tablet as an iPad (about a third each). My own belief is that Forrester's Windows-desire stat won't translate into sales because it reflects an idealized desire for a tablet from Microsoft, not the current or likely offerings. Schadler notes that the survey was taken in fall 2012, before it was clear how Windows tablets would shape up. "Microsoft is still the biggest brand globally. People have been with Microsoft a long time, and they expect to be with Microsoft for a long time in the future," he says. "So if Microsoft and its manufacturing partners can make a decent tablet, then they'd like to use it. If the products aren't available or any good, then these people will change their mind."

It's indeed a new world. If you're not already aligning in the new direction, I strongly suggest you do.

This article, "Get used to it: The post-PC employee has arrived," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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