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Choosing the right device

An understanding of workloads handled by different types of devices is fundamental when making a purchase decision

S Srinivasa Sivakumar 

S Srinivasa Sivakumar

In the maze of products attracting you with a host of features and capabilities, how do you figure which one is right for you? This is true of every product, beverage or experience. How do you decide which phone is right for you, or which tablet is worth the money you spend? The answer is simply to smell your coffee, literally. You will know if it appeals enough and clears your mind so you can think straight now and recognise it rightly for you.

Today, much of our decision to buy anything is driven by emotions, brands and technical features of devices not particularly by our usage pattern. Most advice on the net pits one brand against another or a certain feature in one brand against a similar feature in another. Most of the advice on pricing focuses on the need to pay extra for certain features. Similarly, most customer reviews talk about features with a tone of finality. Can you remember the number of times you have bought something you were recommended but never really needed? That you wasted money to quench your ego is a bitter truth we have all experienced. And how often have you tried returning something because your advice was wrong or unsuitable? How many times can you recall holding onto a purchase because it was money wasted?

Whether it was the shape of a phone or its size, hardware capabilities, with camera, without camera, with Wi-Fi, without Wi-Fi, with 3G or 4G, without 3G or 4G or the host of other differentiators, how many devices do you think you need to buy for your diverse requirements (phone calls, ebooks, games, home, work, etc.)? Possibly many of which will be used more frequently than the others. And there will still be some purchases that will find their way to charity or simply die. (THE CHOICE MATRIX: DEVICE SEGMENT & WORKLOAD DISTRIBUTION)


Want to change that? Rather than base your decision on technical features, ask yourself the pivotal question of what technology can do for you. How can a device improve the quality of your life? Can it make you more knowledgeable or productive or intelligent or reduce the distance between you and your loved ones? Your need for a device is the primary determining factor when deciding to buy one.

While benefits and limitations of devices are necessary, a wider understanding of workloads handled by different types of devices is equally fundamental. To elaborate, some devices enable content creation and some content consumption. Other special considerations could be whether it will be used for work only or also for leisure. (As depicted in Figure 1). For example, smartphones address low content consumption and content creation workloads, phablets (phone + tablets) address medium content consumption and low content creation workloads, eReaders largely address high content consumption and low content creation workloads, tablets aid high content consumption and medium content creation workloads, desktops are high content creation and low content consumption devices since they are not easy to move. Laptops address high content creation and medium content consumption since they are moveable, light weight and possess an adjustable moving angle that provides flexibility in consuming content although, not for an extended period of time.

Hybrid devices are a cross over between laptops and tablets. These can act as pure tablets with touch and gesture and address excellent content consumption requirements. They can also be attached with a keyboard to act as a content creation device that enables excellent content creation.The right way to buy a device should be based on who will use the device and what they will do with it. Ask yourself two pivotal questions: who is going to use the device and what are the usage scenarios for the device? Here is a framework for making the right choice of device:

  • Identify the people who will use the device, if it is for shared usage. For example, working men/women, school students, home makers etc.
  • Identify all the device usage scenarios. For example, read mails, social networking etc.
  • Map the device usage scenario on the 2X2 matrix.
  • Decide the device segment based on the usage scenario.

Now, based on the scenario mapping decide the segment of the device (as depicted in figure 2). For example:

a) If all of your usage scenarios are in the lower left corner, you should choose a smartphone.

b) If all of your scenarios are in the middle of content consumption, a phablet is the device segment that would address all your workloads.

c) If all of your scenarios are in the top of content consumption, a tablet is the right device.

d) If all of your scenarios are in the lower right corner, you should opt for a PC.

e) If all of your scenarios are spread across high content consumption, high content creation and high content consumption and creation (as depicted in figure 3), a hybrid is the perfect choice

f) If all of your scenarios are spread across all the four quadrants (as depicted in figure 4) then a dual device with a combination of smartphone and hybrid device segment would address all your workload needs.

However there could be other special considerations, before choosing the device.

  • Would this device be used for both work and leisure? If so, understand your organisation's Bring your own device (BYOD) policy, the list of approved devices, inbuilt device features, inbuilt capabilities to encrypt data, etc.

  • Would this device be used in tough conditions? You would need to consider a device which is well built and with a touch screen that responds well to a glove hand as well as your bare hands.

  • Would this device be used for lot of content creation? If so, choose a device operating system that is optimised for touch as well as keyboard operation, so that content can be created in a much easier way which will improve productivity.

So far we have adopted ourselves to the device rather than the device adopting to our needs and making our lives easier. Let's change the way we look at devices, identify them and buy them.


S Srinivasa Sivakumar
Enterprise Architect, Microsoft

First Published: Mon, February 10 2014. 00:17 IST
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