Remember the 1979 tune, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles? Here’s round two: the smartphone is well on its way to killing the laptop. Everyone’s talking about it, venture capitalists, users, developers. It’s happening.

I started noticing the reality of this trend when I saw an iPhone app that I could use to operate my laptop from the phone. At that moment I realized that I don’t want to carry a laptop anymore because 1) carrying laptops leads to them breaking and 2) when a laptop breaks, it loses data and 3) anything larger than a sheet of notebook paper is just too big for my purse. Long story short, I want all of the functionality of my laptop, but not the device itself.

So then I started thinking about how phones don’t really store information, they just act as tools to access information stored elsewhere. If a phone breaks or gets lost, a new one will pick up where the old one left off.

Taking it a step further, wouldn’t it make sense for me to work from a dedicated folder on the company server via a phone or iPad instead of from the memory storage on a laptop?

Problems solved by issuing tablets/iPads/smart phones instead of laptops:

So suppose we went into an office and threw out all the laptops and handed everyone an iPad instead, with the idea that the iPads are just drones used to push and pull data from the server. Here’s what could happen:

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All projects would be worked on and completed on the server, instead of employees finishing a project on their desktop and “maybe” remembering to put it on the server

Hardware costs would be substantially reduced

Workers would have all of their documents and applications available at all times

Office workspaces can be even smaller, allowing more workers in the same square footage

Will your workers rise up in protest?

Probably. Besides the obvious self esteem issue of seeing a big machine being replaced with a tiny device, there’s something to be said for the luxury of a big screen and full sized keyboard. There are already peripheral devices that will help take the computing horsepower of the smart phone and combine it with a more familiar look and feel, but they’ll still tell you they’re being downsized and will worry about their job security. Workers get upset when items in their office get smaller, even if it’s a good thing that will make them more effective.

Is it worth it?

It’s a balancing act, really. If your company is replacing broken laptops at an aggravating pace, then you may appreciate the cost savings of tablets/phones. If you replace machines every five years whether they need it or not, then save your employees the stress of a new, small device.

Over the Horizon

Keep your eyes peeled for extremely effective, low cost business apps being developed for tablets and phones. So far I have seen a mileage, speed, drive time and expense tracker for truck drivers, a construction estimating app, an app that allows you to view and control your company’s security cameras by phone, and a receipt scanner for tracking business expenses. More are being developed every day, and many of them are pre-integrated with Quickbooks and Peachtree software, which means you could send out a memo to download the app, and your employees can be online by the next morning.

Also look for document management apps, business card scanner integrations, and GPS tracking so you can see where your employees’ phones are at all times.

Could it be that your company would run better on these smaller, drone-style devices than on laptops? Only time will tell.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at