Phablet proving the agile working method

In the previous article I mentioned that I hadn’t found the point of a phablet for business use personally. I found that everything could “be done better” on a tablet for my personal work needs, and that I was still in search of the “thank god I have a phablet moment“. Well after two weeks working with the beastie (Lumia 1320) I may have just found it, thanks mostly to some of the great apps on Windows Phone …..

Mobility is the key

My Eureka moment came doing a fairly routine task, one of the users had an issue logging into a system, and wasn’t forthcoming with details, meaning I was away from the desk and terminal having to determine what the issue was. A reasonable straight forward routine task in that they’d locked themselves out of the network I found out eventually. Usually I tell the user that “let me get back to the desk, I clear the lockout and you can get back in 10 minutes or so “

I then remembered I had the phablet on me (I got use to carrying the weight!) and thought hang on I can sort this here and now. (The office Wi-Fi was available, but in hindsight if I’d have been in an office with no Wi-Fi I could have fell back on the 4G phone signal!). The Phablet mobile data ability is the winner, without Wi-Fi the tablet would have run aground. But being able to fall back on 3/4G mobile data allows even more flexibility for mobile working.

Applications come in handy

I’m a huge fan of the Microsoft RD application for remoting computers (available for free at google play for Android and at the Windows store for Lumia) and a lot of the main server connections at work, were configured on the phablet so that I could “test” the application.

The rest was just showing off but shows how mobile computing changes your approach to the completion of a task. Instead of remember the IP addresses or names of servers. Or fiddling through menus to find applications, it was a simple as saying:-

wp_ss_20141024_0001“Launch remote desktop domain”. Cortana duly started the app and called domain controller remote desktop that I had previously configured, it was set to auto login, and all the security checks and certificates are set. Cortana the assistant application built into Windows Phone 8.1, is really useful and opens up an alternative input method  without having to excessively faff about through menus. Further development promises an “always on” feature, so that voice input wont require the selecting of Cortana to run the app. Now if they can only make it talk like Jarvis off the Iron Man films I’d be one happy geek !

The phablet screen although not as large as the precious tablet, still gives you a high quality, readable screen to work with. The resolution of the screen is fine, and not grainy, making it easy to work with and not having to determine what menu options actually are without struggling with fuzzy or blurred fonts.

I’ve included an un doctored image to show the sharpness / clarity. The 6″ is very workable and  allows you to move the pointer easily to the menu options etc once you’ve obtained a remote connection to a server, while it remains viewable, It’s offset so your finger doesn’t have to be over the actual pointer, just “near it” and it mimics the direction of travel.

wp_ss_20141024_0002So that you can actually see where you’re clicking ( a god send). The rest was a routine selecting the Administrator menu, selecting the user and clearing the account lock. I even changed the users password, handing them the tablet so they could enter the password without them having to tell/write it down for me.

As the grand finale I even logged into the company incident tracker via the browser logged the call feedback details and closed the call, saving time having to remember the details after I got back to the desk and then having to enter the info. Job done and time saved for the classic IT Tea and biscuit break was mine

“Jarvis… drop my needle”

Yes I could have done the task differently log in on the users computer would have actually took longer waiting for my profile to download on the PC. Or, wrestling around network security so that I could get to the domain controller (if I could remember the IP or convoluted naming conventions we use at work!)

Ok, the Cortana bit was for show (I admit it) but proves a valuable example, in that there was no need to hunt through the phablets applications, or remember login details for other secure servers (once RD is configured it remembers them as favourites) The simple straight forward “please do this..” to the phablet worked well and more importantly quickly! Cortana’s rollout in WIndows 10 to other devices opens up an whole different approach on computer use to desktop and mobile devices users alike

 Screen’s not just for movies

Without doubt a 6 inch screen is workable, although it wouldn’t be a personal preference for a long time, but the desktop was clear and readable. The browser working in full desktop mode allowed our support software to run as it would on laptop or PC.

 Mobile devive & data usage requirements have changed

Previous employments years ago I was heavily involved in mobile data, from pedestrian hand held devices to vehicle mounted PDA’s. Back then (hum’s the hovis theme!) this technology was in its infancy. The devices were bulky and cumbersome, and although working over the networks, in the evening the devices had to be racked up in rows so as to download data from the server, and upload any new updates .

The phablet size in compared to the dinosaurs I worked with back then, makes them look and feel like envelopes in comparison. The phablet is a great convenient hand sized device to have and work with, the WiFi or 3G/4G connectivity does make it a real work anywhere device. So much so, that it was borrowed and used by the girlfriend  as a Sat Nav, and during an interview to email the company an updated documents and certificate copies when asked could you send  the details later.

The hear and now is that computing  already is agile/flexible, and you don’t have to wear a watch to get on the band wagon.

The paperwork !

One other thing I must mention is Office 365 and Onedrive. These apps are truly what makes a business phone/phablet useful. The usual got to send that email, do a bit more or finish off the report that’s need for tomorrow. Even preparing a spreadsheet report can all be done by the office app.To prove a point this entire article was done on the phablet, and uploaded via theweb browser version of WordPress.

Using Onedrive as a central storage for your files allows your PC/Laptop/Tablet/Phablet or phone to share the files, you can work at the office, from home. Or, on the move without carrying around mobile storage (USB sticks). If you want to be a mobile/agile worker get your hands on these apps, it’ll benefit the work you need to do no end.

The phablet screen makes the apps far more viable for use than that of the smaller smartphone screen.

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Tablet or Phablet?

  From an earlier post and after a shaky start I am now a self-confessed tablet fan. The ability to use a device as a full on computer on the move, away from the office, or even if I can’t be bothered to go into the home office to work is fantastic. Remote computing out and about or even from the comfort of your couch, is perfect tablet territory. When the opportunity arose to replace the old second phone, the wonders of the phablet (phone tablet hybrid) entered into consideration. Surely this would be a perfect solution? The take two bottles into the shower (tv ad for shampoo/conditioner) phrase crossed the mind! I could do away with the tablet and do all on this new phablet. I have to admit, the grey area that other articles mention may apply to home use of a phablet. But, they become two very different devices especially with regard to your work/business requirements. This article about the “third” device is a semi light hearted prospective of phablet use, can phone and tablet really work in one device? Is it possible to replace one with another?

Size really does matter !

 phonephabletThe blindingly obvious phablets are bigger than phones, so prepare to carry about (cargo pants are an ideal solution!) and work with a considerable sized piece of real estate in your hands. I’ve used the above photo to prove a point. The smaller phone in the image is the 520 phone and the larger the 1320 phablet. The reason they’re next to one another to demonstrate what’s known as the sweet spot. The smaller phone shows what’s considered as ideal size of a screen so that the average hand can hold the phone and with thumb and fingers work in the space.

The days of holding the phone in one hand and thumb typing/swiping will be a thing of the past for most that move to phablets. Either use both hands, or rotate the screen to get the extended keyboard so you can grip the device and thumb type a la tablet. (Best way prevents dropping the phablet, or having it stole away from your grasp if you’re in one of those areas your parents always warned you about after dark!). The screen size is the main emphasis of the phablet, the 6+ inch screen gives the appearance that everything’s bigger which is not only handy for watching videos, but for working on too. The extra screen size is ideal for mobile working, for my needs I have to remote clients servers and desktop occasionally when dealing with queries and issues, in addition to bashing in email, completing reports and returning reports done in excel. The wide open screen space is perfect for RDP allowing you to work and see in a useable desktop space without squinting as you would if using a phone. Web browsing can be done in “true” desktop mode, no need to view everything in mobile friendly view (sorry web developers).

Making/Receiving calls

dom jolly I always remember Dom Jolly from TV wandering about with a 4ft tall mobile phone shouting “Hello I’m on the phone”, back then it was the annoyance of people using mobile phones, wonder if he gets royalties for the invention ! Although not quite as bad, using a phablet for long calls can become an uncomfortable exercise, both physically and mentally. Better alternative is hands free, assisted by Cortana/Siri or OKGoogle to dial your contact is perfect. But, be prepared to lose privacy unless you have headset/earphones. Hoping you can see the point I’m trying to make, it’s not always a quick extract from the pocket to make/answer a call (depending on where you are). Long calls you’ll end up juggling the phone (as your arm slowly goes to sleep). With hands free you risk letting the world now that the spouse/boss is angry when you get “that call!” in the café or on the bus, so remember to keep a pocket free for the Bluetooth headset, wired earphones !

Photo’s and Video Overall high end smartphones/phablets generally have better camera quality that of tablets. The phablet wins hands down on this, still within the “bounds of decency” to hold up and take a snap, Instead of attempting to manhandle a 10 inch tablet, blocking the views of others at concerts & shows (you know who you are!) to take a snap. Video conferencing via phablet is a dead heat with a tablet there’s no real difference although IMHO, it seems more advantageous, the slightly smaller size more convenient to hold in the hands and chat rather than holding a tablet. For long regular use of video calls, I’d recommend getting a stand case for the phablet.

Is a Phablet a real tablet? Firstly, this is very much governed on what platform you’re on Android/Apple or Microsoft. Secondly, everyone works differently, you’ll have different requirements if you’re a photographer to that of an office worker, so you’ll have to weigh up the pro’s and con’s I’m trying to point out . I use the Toshiba Encore & Surface Pro3 tablets, two very different opposite end of the scale tablets at first sight. But, I can perform all my work tasks on both exactly the same way. Tablets utilise apps perfectly fine (see earlier posts). But, also allow you to utilise the PC desktop like working on the PC/laptop when you need to, which is essential for my work. A phablet doesn’t have a native desktop as such (unless you RDP another machine!), so you will be reliant on the apps, which should be fine. But you could end up encountering difficulties or even losing some functionality / abilities, depending on your needs. Also that slightly smaller screen may well require your need for the wand or pen especially for fiddly menus on webpages or remote desktop, as the sausage fingered amongst us will know. An 8+ inch tablet screen provides a much more touch friendly work area to that of the 6 inch screen. If you use browser driven applications heavily you may not have problems. Luckily, Windows and Window Phone both have equivalent browsers in IE11. But if you’re reliant on a specific plug in on the PC/Tablet you may not be able to get that on the browser on the phablet. Android tablets would have issues with flash for example, google chrome plug in’s differ between mobile and desktop browsers. This may sound very negative about the phablet, and it’s not my intention to put down the device. But some circumstances simply will occur where you will hit problems. One company I know state their application only works in firefox !?! Which is a bit of a blow if you’ve spent fortune buying the Iphone 6+ to discover you can’t use the phablet for every browsing requirement, without having to download different browser apps.

Endurance

Most phablets have a more powerful battery than that of the ordinary smartphone, obviously needing more oomph to do more work and power that larger display. I have to admit the 1320 is perfect you could probably run a small town on it, while working and still have over 75% battery life left. But, there’s a reason. The 1320 is the cut down version of a larger model, with the 1320 having slightly less features so it doesn’t use drain power as it would on its big brother. But, having the same engine under the hood makes it a long distance runner. Other phablets mentioning no names, do suffer badly from power drain which is a bad thing, as a portable device is something that doesn’t have to be 4 ft away from the nearest power socket, you begin to lose the advantage of mobility. If you want to take the leap to phablet check the battery life/standby etc.

The Verdict

Tablets are nearly always referred to as the “second device”, an additional piece of hardware to use while the primary device is unavailable. Strangely the tablet for me has become an essential device. I’ve worked three weeks solid on the Encore, doing heavy work related computing, shunning the desktop. Just because it was so damn easy to start quickly and crack on, it became second nature to work that way. The phablet for me, is the true second device. I can work with it, but not for long periods, and for the moment not on all tasks. (Windows 10 promises that it will be a transparent change using the o/s between devices when released). Phablets are handy if I’m away from the office and I get the can you have a quick look at this .. type calls, but to work on for several hours work would not be my preference. The name gives it away really is primary function is still a phone at the end of the day. Phablets give an advantage to using the smartphone more as a mobile computer, but aren’t a direct replacement for it as is the tablet. It may sound like I regret getting the phablet. But that’s not the case, I found it does have its uses for work but as said it’s a McGyver device, a quick fix to get around a work related issue such as, call up a website in a meeting to obtain info, making a skype call etc. It’s not a gadget as I deem wearable’s (future article) , it is a true secondary device for mobile computing needs.

No doubt people would disagree, but this opinion is based on my work which is desktop oriented running cloud apps , but I need to be able to do it away from the office at the drop of a hat, hence my preference for the tablet. I’ve yet to find the “thank god I have phablet” moment at work, I don’t doubt it will happen and will let you know.. What’s your opinon? Do you rely on the phablet more tablet? I’d be interested to hear opinions….

Always remember your roots! Viewpoint on Windows 10 announcement

So under quite a muffled announcement on Sept 30th Windows 10 was announced by Microsoft, were church bells ringing over 8.1’s demise? The sound of sobbing heard from people who just downloaded the 8.1 upgrade from the Windows Store? Er well no actually, it was very much a time to reflect and move on, and rightly so….

A quiet launch

No fan fare, no dancing girls, just a very laid back announcement that it wasn’t going to be called Windows 9, Threshold or Mavis for that matter, followed by an overview by Joe Belfiore. In a very honest opening, Joe explained “this isn’t finished” and went on to display Windows 10, much of which the pre launch rumours got spot on.

Crowd pleaser, and two into one will go

So basically a much happier desktop fan base got their precious start menu back. Both desktop and mobile users were in awe of the app window sat next to desktop window on the desktop in harmony and could be resized, snapped into position finally the UI and the desktop were together at last.

Okay it was never neat but it baffled me the opposition to working between the UI and desktop, obviously power users could easily get the “grumps” (and often do!), but it was hardly climbing Everest adjusting between the two, and worst came to the worst you could always snap the two side by side by means of the desktop.

WIndows 10  Continuum concept displayed when you separate a 2 in 1 from laptop/netbook mode to tablet showed a smooth transition, even allowing a prompt to the user to say “hey I’m changing mode is that okay!” Mobility and desktop are now as simple as hitching/detaching a trailer to a car

The Verdict ?

Way too earlier to comment, or even criticise. Windows 10 is in transition and will be over the following months. What was displayed on the 30th September, may change even more.

So will they get it right this time? The answer must be an undoubted YES. As the Insider program is open to trial by the users themselves, they’ll be testing Microsoft’s suggestions and voicing their opinion with yea’s and neighs no doubt, to a degree development of the OS assisted by end users and consumers, what could be better (other than have a politician actual listen to your views and doing something about them!)

But, Joe Belfiore also showed that so much of Windows 10 relied on the back bone of 8.1. Certain features still will remain in mobile/touch view although probably evolve. Everyone tipped Charms for having its head on the block for touch, but really you do need something like Charms when working touch/mobile style. So it touch Charms will change over time, but the principle makes Windows 8.1 ugly duckling will become a swan over the next few months.

Was 8.1 a waste of time and investment, certainly not, the concept was right but not put in practice to maintain the harmony for all users! The reward for making the move to 8.1 looks highly likely to be a straight upgrade from 8.1 to 10 via the store (this has yet to be 100% confirmed), onto what appears to be a very familiar landscape.

The angry mob with torches

The “death” of Windows 8.1 is exaggerated, instead of being canned, it’s very similar to a Vista to Windows 7 transition that took place years ago (which I elaborated on in an earlier post)

So the IT specialists that shunned Windows 8 have now put out their torches, and will have to walk back to the village forelorn, as instead of killing the monster, they have to reflect on how to make the move from 7 to 10, with a distinct lack of transferable skills from not dealing with 8 no doubt they’ll still be mumbles. As said there’s many that trip over the XP to 7 changes still over base concepts as user account control!

For those IT and users who took the step, they became pioneers, already familiar with the lay of the land, able to use the operating system on various devices keeping both o/s requirement and data associated across multiple windows devices. 8.1 users will hit the ground running with 10.

One operating system to find  them and in the darkness bind them …

A true united operating system experience across the 10 platform, offers a “promised land” (hobbit and orc free!) making multiple devices such as Computer/Tablet/Phablet and phone a transparent transition when changing  between devices. Hopefully annoying little differences will disappear (VPN not being the exact same is my personal gripe), to provide a “one ring” in mobile computing for business and personal use alike.

Has it been done before? Well yes, partially. But, uniting devices across devices, and over Enterprise is a lot more different to what’s gone before, by anyone’s standards. Windows experience has finally gone mobile, but by natural progression from the 8 and 8.1 platform… It’s always good to look back at your ancestry