The perils of a mobile-first IT strategy

Don’t expect the mobile revolution to happen without a fight.

According to industry visionaries, the traditional PC is bound to be supplanted by a combination of laptop computers, tablet PCs, smart phones and similar products. Indeed, those gadgets have already been making their way into the federal workplace, whether agencies like it or not. So far, it has been a grass-roots revolution.

Now, some agency leaders are getting in on the action by revising their IT policies to incorporate mobile devices. A few agencies — notably the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the General Services Administration — have even begun talking about a mobile-first strategy.

Not so fast. As it turns out, given their druthers, many federal employees favor performance over mobility and would rather stick with their old-school desktop computers. Here is a sampling of the comments we received when we asked Federal Computer Week readers to weigh in on the matter. Comments have been edited for length, style and clarity.

Power rangers

When I can get a mobile/portable device that allows me to leave a dozen windows open as I navigate between several cutting/pasting/copying/sorting/reviewing tasks (did someone say virtual office displays?) and continue to be productive, only then will I even think about giving up my desktop.
— Anonymous

Laptops simply lack the power to do even mildly complex analyses. There may come a point where laptops are finally up to par, but for now, they are still limited. As far as tablets, I agree that they are a step backward. They make great toys but aren't a serious consideration when it comes to doing anything beyond simple things like e-mail and streaming video.
— Paul

A bad deal

Unfortunately, my laptop was taken away and replaced by a cheaper desktop a few years ago. I am now tethered to my desk and can't work from home. It's even difficult to work away from my desk because we can't use thumb drives and have extremely limited share-drive and e-mail storage space. So, while the command is paying for a cheaper desktop, they've now lost the "free" work they used to get from me when working from home.
— Anonymous

What a brick

Without connectivity, most of the “neat” devices are useless, with the exception of the loaded portable. What are we to do during an emergency situation involving significant destruction or a power outage? If your computer needs a cloud [to access software], you are left with a brick in your hand.

Check the calendar

I already have a laptop — and that's what I've had in every job since 1994. I am amazed that it's taken the government this long to catch up. What would be nice would be a virtual desktop in the cloud at work, with an iPad or something similar to connect to it.
— Barry Graham

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications:, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.


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