There’s a revolution under way that is gaining momentum, and yet doing so in a way that although we scarcely notice the changes from day-to-day, when we look back a few years we can see they’re enormous.
This revolution is in the way we work and live.
Ten years ago, working from 9 to 5 in an office was overwhelmingly the norm, and when we left the office at 5 we effectively switched off from work until we arrived back at our desks the next morning.
Today, this is very different and the lines between work and leisure are increasingly blurred, impacting almost every aspect of life from where we work, to how, when and even to our holidays, and yet we’re really still in the early stages of this revolution.
It all came together with the convergence of the Internet, smartphones and notebook PCs in the mid-late 90s – the Internet becoming increasingly pervasive once a user-friendly browser, Netscape, was released in 1994, the term “Smart Phone” first being used in 1997 and, of course, the increasing power and affordability of notebook PCs throughout the 90s.
By 2000, this convergence of technologies was enabling people to become properly location-independent – accessing email at any time, from anywhere, and moving from this to being able to run an increasingly wider list of applications on these portable devices: initially the notebook PCs, but increasingly on smart phones as the performance of these devices improved. For the first half of the decade, though, such location independence was still the preserve of the ‘early adopters’ as the technologies continued to evolve and the cost and availability of bandwidth improved, with such ‘early adopters’ being equipped by the companies for which they worked.
The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 brought about the next significant jump in working practice – or rather, the introduction of the Apple App Store a few months after the iPhone brought about this jump. The iPhone and App Store enabled people to choose from a wide range of applications that enabled their smartphones to be so much more functional than had been the case to date.
Suddenly, Apple moved into the mainstream of intelligent device use, and people started demanding that they be allowed to use their own smartphone (the iPhone, in this case) rather than the company-supplied one, (most often a Blackberry at that time). People liked the new applications that were available, and wanted to use these at work as well as in their leisure time.
And then, in 2010, came the iPad…
This combined sufficient power and screen size to effectively run most business-level applications that people needed to access when on the move, with battery life than enable all-day working – a major limitation of notebook PCs that typically could only run for a few hours.
For the first time, people could work remotely from their offices all day without worrying about power source availability – true location-independence had become feasible.
Of course, things continue to evolve. PC makers, seeing massive market share being taken by these portable smart devices (phones and tablets), which outsold PCs for the first time in 2011, have countered with Ultrabooks – full-power notebooks that utilise solid state disks and great battery life to provide full PC performance with all-day power. Tablets, too, get more powerful and functional, while bandwidth continues to become more pervasive and cheaper.
The “Bring Your Own Device” movement is now taking off – users insisting on being able to work with their own choice of devices and companies recognising the cost savings, and motivational advantages of allowing this.
Today, it’s entirely commonplace for employees to have no real office address: their contact details show a mobile number alone, and they work from home, from client sites and from wherever else is most convenient. They come together over video conference calls from multiple places, and share knowledge using a multiplicity of internet-based tools.
And this trend will keep accelerating, with interesting social consequences likely to emerge as society increasingly reverses the location-dependence introduced with the Industrial Revolution.
I’ll explore some of these, together with the technology issues driving them, in future posts.
Note: I first posted this on the Business Connexion blog on 11 Feb.
- The most iconic mobile phones in history, celebrating 40 years since the first call (pocket-lint.com)
- Seven devices my iPhone and iPad have made redundant (pcpro.co.uk)
- Innovative Ways to Use Your Phone to Grow Your Business (starrynightsocialmedia.com)
- We Can’t Get Lost Anymore (thoughtcatalog.com)