Step Away From The Desk

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The idea of the Digital Nomad (now, also an online community courtesy of Dell) has been lingering and pushing forward ever-more quickly with the proliferation of netbooks, wi-fi anywhere and a Starbucks on every corner.

We are quickly moving into a very interesting place where physically sitting in front of a terminal is going to look very ridiculous very soon. Some of the best iPhone apps are the ones that enable and empower you to have a terminal, screen, device or whatever you want to call it anywhere and everywhere. The ability to choose a paint color, have it come up on your iPhone and physically hold it against the wall/room/furniture you’re looking to update changes the game for all of us, and forever.

Do people still buy computer desktops?

Yes, they do. Without question, the desktop computer packs a much bigger wallop than most of the laptops, ultra-portable laptops and netbooks (both on price and performance). Desktops can also be upgraded versus having to toss or hand-me-down your laptop when something faster with a bigger hard drive comes along. Recently, I was flipping through the local newspaper and caught myself analyzing some of the big-box electronic retailers’ brochures, when I realized, "wow, a desktop computer… what would I do with that?"

It’s all about multi-platforms (or, at least, it will be).

People are quick to laugh at themselves when they realize that they’ve got the TV on, their laptops on their laps, the iPod Touch by their side and a mobile device within reach. It used to be the kind of activity that our teenagers were doing, and we would laugh about it at dinner parties. Now, we’re all doing it. We’re using many media platforms and all of them at the same time. Many people have already expressed concern, outrage and disappointment regarding yesterday’s Blog post, I Like To Watch… And So Do You,about TV viewership. There can’t be that many people just sitting there and watching TV for all of those hours?

It’s not just the media landscape that is shifting… society is shifting too.

Disruption does that. There were major concerns when Sony first released the Walkman that we would become a soulless society focused only on ourselves and our own little corner of the world. Some might argue that this has, indeed, taken place. Others might argue that all of the technologies and platforms have created a new breed of knowledge sharing and mass collaboration. Whatever side of the fence you care to defend, one thing is for certain: the idea of having fixed terminals in a fixed location is quickly becoming antiquated (Internet Cafe owners beware!). Media, content and access to information is available everywhere. It could well be one of the more fundamental challenges that businesses and organizations are going to have to face in terms of human resources, office space design, meeting spaces and productivity. What do we do to develop and grow in a world where the information is not just here, but it’s "here, there and everywhere?"

How do you work? Are you at a fixed station or completely mobile? Do you think fixed stations are here to stay?


  1. Completely mobile. Have a desk with phone, tower and monitor but never sit there. All my clients have my cell #, not my desk phone. And I pretty much camp out with my laptop and cell phone wherever I’m going to be least interrupted and mos productive – Conference room, coffee shop, back seat of a car, it doesn’t matter. Just need power outlet.

  2. Three primary thoughts for me around this.
    Reducing overhead and fixed costs associated to having someone in chair all day, every day, is a no-brainer for me. There is at least 50% of my job that I could do anywhere that offers Internet access.
    Then there’s the matter of productivity…which I see a little like the debate that rages around school curriculum, different people learn better using different approaches, I think the same is true here.
    Last, work ethic, are we mature enough as a whole, to know ourselves if we do/don’t work better with/without structure and choose accordingly? How many organizations have the necessary processes and infrastructure in the place to police what I think will be an inherent abuse of new found “freedom� to work wherever.
    My two cents anyway.

  3. I think cloud computing will likely have to be come a real reality before I’m able to leave the the fixed terminal behind.
    As we speak I’m taking a break from a music production project to clear my mind and ears and read you’re blog.. The kind of house power needed, all the hardware controllers, the duel big monitors for productivity, etc.. makes me un-mobile..
    But.. if software does become a service, and the cloud can do some of my processing.. and some how there’s no latency.. and you can attach you’re glasses into you’re smart phone and enter some VR interface.. with little controllers covering you’re body to detect “body language gestures” well.. I’m making the jump!
    Minus the latency and serious cloud computing issues.. I could see realizing such a thing now.. IPhone OS 3 allowing communication with you’re laptop.. strapped into your backpack.. with various devices coming out.. the wearable computer augmented reality cybernetic blah blah blah..
    I mean can you imagine the possibilities? Where’s the VC cash when you need it?
    That’s what really gets me excited.. the notion multi touch immersive 3D interfaces with an augmented reality lair over the physical one.. as you’re identity tag cloud roams around with you.. in a location based social networking technology of a future generation..
    Anyway.. I’ve clearly been at my terminal to long…

  4. I’m one of those desktop holdout users you speak of. In fact, I’m about to buy a new computer, and yes, I will be purchasing a desktop. Quite simply, I find there’s a mental state associated with a space that is dedicated solely to work. If I try to work someplace else, I get easily distracted.
    Also, I hate carrying a heavy laptop around with me. As someone who gets around primarily by walking, I try to travel as light as possible. The computer can stay in one place, and if I need to use it, I’ll just go there.
    And as for an iPhone or a BlackBerry? No way, not for me. The ability to say no, I’m not reachable right now is more valuable than the ability to be always on. I think that everyone needs to disconnect sometimes or else we burn out.

  5. Completely mobile, although I need people interaction, so I have several places called “office”, one laptop, bb and several email addresses, social media accounts that I use based on whom I need to get in touch with. I did not like having one office to go to every day, 9 to 5, 5 times a week, but eliminating it completely and working from home is not for me either. I miss engagement and creative conversation and interaction. A compromised solution with lots of client meetings, one start-up office to go to a few days a week and other incubator style places where I can drop in for other days is best. However not sure that would work if I have to manage staff, as I did before when working for a corporation. The digital nomad type works for certain professions and type of people, would it work for everybody? no, but it definitely changes the way a “regular” office operates too.

  6. Fixed station at The Jb. Fixed station at home (and working from home). I do have a laptop by the counch for looking things up and reading TWitter but it’s far too small to get any real work done.
    My Mac G5 has three large screens (two 21″ 1680×1050, one 24″ 1920×1200 – try putting those on your laptop) a real keyboard and a trackball.
    The company I work for supplies most people with laptops but Everyone gets an external keyboard, mouse, and a 24″ monitor. We’re all sent through ergonomics training where we learn that working on a laptop screen and laptop keyboard all day is NOT good for you!
    If you’re playing “digital no,mad” aand using a laptop all day, _please_ do some research into proper hand position, angle, monitor height, etc.

  7. The choice of desktop/laptop is a question of appropriate tool. Do you work primarily with words or images?
    It’s desktops all the way for me. I simply could not do my job or my hobbies on a laptop.
    Right now, I’m sitting in front of a wide-gamut 24-inch screen, which was purchased for photography work, connected to a quad-core Mac. Using Photoshop and Lightroom on a laptop sounds like an exquisite form of torture to me. The processors are slower, the drives are glacial, and the screens are small and difficult to make colour-correct.
    They desktop is not going away. Even though laptop sales are now more than half of all computer sales, that is simply because until the last few years, the portable option was out of budget for most people. Now a Macbook is $1100. That changed the game.

  8. the power users will never give up their workstations. worker bees, sure – but my efficiency in a dual monitor workstation is insane…plus i dont know how you could make good studio monitors portable, which im not giving up. for worker drones, maybe – power users – not for quite awhile, if ever (we like privacy while we work)

  9. I can’t help but making this comment:
    It seems that soon we’ll all going to use some kind of small screen-but-ultra-portable device… a micro mobile terminal if you want, doing micro tasks, like micro blogging, talking to the phone, checking email, reading RSS…
    You see what’s the problem with this?
    Well, someone has to work too.
    Oh, I know, you can work with a laptop too. But very often, you end up in your comfortable office, plugging a big monitor into your laptop, a keyboard and a mouse, completely “macroing” and “fixing” you micro mobile terminal.

  10. Desktops still have a place in high end publishing. Most laptops just cant get the job done or do so with so much latent heat they become unusable in anything but a desktop usage.

  11. I’m most comfortable working on a desk top. I use my laptop when I need to get out of the house, but for the most part I’m a desktop user.

  12. I have an office/studio in the basement of my house where I use a Mac Mini for music production, website development, home video editing, and managing a massive iTunes library. I happy to have that be a “terminal” – its a creative space I’m happy to be locked away in. Sometimes having a designated workspace is a good thing.
    But for the rest of the house and beyond, I realized I didn’t need anything more than a Linux netbook. It runs Firefox…what else do you need?

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