Gartner: the personal cloud will replace the PC by 2014
In an announcement that was shocking to some and shrugworthy to others, yesterday Gartner predicted the post-PC era by 2014, stating that most consumer tasks will be performed virtually, in the cloud.
Citing five consumer megatrends in personal computing, independent research firm Gartner is predicting that “the personal cloud will replace the personal computer at the center of users’ digital lives”–in two short years, by 2014. The prediction is shocking not in its content but in the anticipated alacrity of adoption. Consumers are already relying heavily on smartphones and tablets for everyday tasks from banking to entertainment consumption to document creation. So where does that leave customer care?
A quick summary of the five megatrends cited by Gartner as driving this evolution in consumer usage:
- Consumerization: “Users have become innovators, and through the democratization of technology, users of all types and status within organizations can now have similar technology available to them.”
- Virtualization: Rampant virtualization has made applications device-agnostic and more accessible than ever through broadband connectivity.
- App-ification: Applications are now designed with consumers and their myriad devices in mind.
- The ever-available service cloud: Every consumer now has access to a plethora of online solutions and applications to answer any question or solve any problem, which “encourages a culture of self-service that users expect in all aspects of their digital experience.”
- The mobility shift–access whenever and wherever the consumer wants: Any given device now has the flexibility to be the user’s main device, not just the desktop.
Is the PC really going to die?
GigaOm was quick to qualify Gartner’s bold statement with a few words of caution. While many consumers do rely on a variety of devices for access, reliable broadband access is not yet universal. If you’ve ever paid $12.95 for two hours of Gogo inflight internet access, you can probably attest to this. The need for offline interaction still exists.
“Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices,” said Kleynhans. “Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life.”
What is a post-PC world?
Are we already in a post-PC world? Yeah, kinda, but it depends on how you define “post-PC world.” We are also in a post-radio world in the sense that while radio still exists, it is no longer the sole delivery point for communications as it was in the 30s and 40s. Consumer communications tools and content consumption shifted from radio to television and then to the internet, but each medium still exists and adapted to the change.
The PC will continue to exist as a tool for content creation and collaboration, but it will be one of many, as opposed to the primary tool, suggests Wired magazine:
Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie made recently, saying, “People argue about, ‘Are we in a post-PC world?’. Why are we arguing? Of course we are in a post-PC world,” Ozzie is is reported to have said at a GeekWire-sponsored conference last week. ”That doesn’t mean the PC dies; that just means that the scenarios that we use them in, we stop referring to them as PCs, we refer to them as other things.”
Stop assuming that all online interaction will be PC-based. Take Gartner’s prediction to mean that the PC is going the way of radio and television: still very much in our lives, but no longer the be-all and end-all of consumer computing. Rather, it is becoming a smaller part of a diverse system consumers use to access information and engage in communication. Consider the smartphone and the tablet in terms of customer service just as readily as the PC.
What does the personal cloud mean for customer care?
If the evolution of communication to the personal cloud occurs by 2014 as Gartner predicts, there will be two key areas of evolution for customer service:
- The contact center must adapt to all forms of customer communication. Gone are the days when organizations can assume that customers will use a voice channel to communicate service issues. While many organizations have embraced web chat, texting, smartphone apps and social media monitoring for customer care, these are often tacked on slapdash, while the call center is still considered the primary focus of customer service. Contact centers will need to proactively strategize infrastructure and staffing needs based on the assumption that consumers prefer smartphone and tablet interactions to phone and PC.
- The contact center will take advantage of the cloud for its own infrastructure needs. With fast-changing consumer expectations, the contact center can’t afford to be stuck in the 90s with aging legacy infrastructure, and purchasing complex telephony systems that will be outdated before installation will not meet the needs of the modern contact center. Contact centers need to make the shift to cloud infrastructure themselves in order to accommodate changing customer needs. Sure, smartphones and tablets are all the rage right now, but what will 2015 bring? Cloud virtual contact centers are flexible and scalable, far more so than on-premise infrastructure. And one day your agents may be working exclusively from an iPad or other tablet device, with no PC to be found.
In short, take into consideration the consumer need for self-service through a variety of devices, not just the phone and PC. And while you’re at it, update your own infrastructure to a cloud platform so you’ll be ready for the next wave of customer service trends.