Mobile Design, Customer Service

Who needs a computer?


With the rise in popularity and capability of smartphones and tablets, many people are going without a traditional desktop or even a laptop computer. Do your customers own a traditional computer? Do you need one to run your business?


The shape and form of the computer has evolved along with its capability. Nobdy designed the first computers to be the size of a small building and thought 'Great, this is exactly how I would want it to be;' it was just the best they could do at the time. Before we realized that literally everybody could use one, and indeed before that was true, there wasn't any need for a computer to really be portable. After all, who needed to know the results of astronomical calculations at the grocery store? As computers became more capable and smaller businesses started to use them for word processing and budgeting, a computer that wouldn't cost thousands of dollars a month in power and that would be accessible by people not trained in programming languages becamse demanded, and so computers got smaller.

Fast forward thirty years or so, and the iPhone and iPad (and their Windows and Android competitiors) developed demand for themselves by proving their use in entertainment and business. Many people are realizing that a phone or tablet does everything they used to need a computer for- these devices can browse the internet, keep us in touch, review and create business documents, and of course feed our Candy Crush addictions. This segment of the population is growing so quickly that the web design community is debating whether or not it's appropriate to design webpages for mobile devices first and then make them work on desktop browsers, instead of the other way around.

The trend is permeating small businesses too- does a plumber really need a computer? If he or she hires an account for tax season, the odds are good that a computer is unnecessary. Obviously calling people is covered by a phone, but with the right set of apps so is payment processing and billing, task scheduling, and even filing regulatory paperwork. Anita Campbell for the SBA recently explored the issue. There are some tasks- namely any that require a keyboard and aren't easily covered by voice to text dictation- that a computer will make easier, but easier isn't necessary. There is a cost benefit analysis to do weighing the $500 or so a decent laptop will cost along with having another device to carry around or sync up against saving a few minutes of aggrivation with a bigger more capable device.