Staying Connected, Whether You Want to or Not

Always-connected smartphones have changed the way companies do business

 

Pocket computing began years ago, thanks in large part to the popularity of Palm-like products. They allowed users to carry their contacts, calendars and more in a small, digital device. Unfortunately, they initially didn’t have cell-phone capabilities. This changed with the introduction of the likes of the Palm Treo and BlackBerrys. March ahead a few years, and like-minded products have become even more sophisticated, especially with the addition of cloud-syncing abilities. Now, businesses of all sizes can take advantage of this, having quick and easy ways to conduct business, whether internally with employees or externally with customers and business partners.

My dad still uses the Palm Pilot he bought “I don’t know” decades ago when he was a real estate agent. At the time, it represented an innovative way to sync contacts and calendars between desktop computers and hand-held devices. And for the most part, it worked. People could now carry a digital Franklin Planner in their pockets. Alas, they’d also have to make room for a cell phone, many of which were the size and weight of a brick—and didn’t support computer/device data sharing.

 

 

palm pilot- phones Palm Pilot while cutting edge in it’s day a dinosaur now

 

Seeing an opportunity here, companies such as Palm and BlackBerry had an ah-ha moment. Why not combine the best of these devices, creating a single platform that would include both Palm-like syncing and the calling capabilities of cell phones? The results were hit and miss, but this innovation established a new market for business owners and employees. Sales people, for example, could scan their appointments and, with the push of a button (yeah, a real, physical button) contact their customers while on the road. Unfortunately, these new devices were expensive to purchase and carrier contracts were costly, leaving many small businesses out in the cold.

Tearing Down the Device-Divide Wall

It wasn’t until Apple introduced the iPhone that this began to change. Although it was initially available only through AT&T, it became the hot item to have. Sure, it was just as expensive as a Palm Treo or a BlackBerry, but it was dead simple to use—and included an on-board iPod. That was the sweet spot for many. Now, they could sync, make calls and, during down moments, listen to Led Zeppelin. And with the addition of apps (which earlier devices had supported, albeit with less success), play Euchre, check on March Madness scores and make sure their flights were on time.

 

 

 

 

iPhone phones Apple iPhone

 

This is when the device-divide wall began to crumble. Smaller businesses were now in the position to do what their bigger brethren had been doing with their cell-enabled Palms and BlackBerrys—but with more sex appeal. More notably, however, syncing became a snap, unlike with Palm’s notoriously buggy data-transfer software (about which I still have night terrors). Users could simply click on what they wanted to share between computer and iPhone—and iPhone and computer—and hit the “Sync” button. Ta-da!

This required, however, a direct physical connection between the iPhone and the computer. This wasn’t a deal breaker, but it did mean that its users were still tethered to their computers. For laptop users, this wasn’t really a big deal, but for desktop-only owners, it meant a trip back to the office to make sure everything was in order both on their phones and their computers.