Intel talks up mobility

Intel talks up mobility

Intel CIO, John Johnson, has offered up details about a five-year, $US25 million initiative aimed at increasing mobility with laptops, smart phones and related applications. In an interview with IDG, he also talked about Intel's move away from desktops for its workers to laptops.

You have indicated that IT didn't force mobile computing on your workforce and worked with your business units to achieve heavy laptop penetration and thousands of smart phones. How forceful can you be as a CIO or IT manager to bring about these kinds of changes?

John Johnson (JJ): Our desktop-to-mobile conversion wasn't done in the dark. We like to do pilots and get hundreds or even thousands of users in the pilot. We're very data-driven at Intel and have to have data supporting our decisions. The pilots prove a concept. Some innovations are early-adopter-focused and we just built on that success.

You have something like 85,000 laptop users, about 85 per cent of your workforce, which is an increase from 66 per cent using laptops in 2003. What's the most important measure of the ROI with that change?

JJ: We know we get two hours per week per employee of improved productivity based on a 40-hour week. That's a very conservative measure. That's roughly a 5 per cent improvement. But the proof of the value is in the decision by users to keep using mobile computing, laptops and handhelds. It's not an IT effort or to reduce headcount.

Has that productivity resulted in lost headcount?

JJ: Really, it's about getting more done with what you have. People can cover more ground.

OK, you have a lot of laptops being used internally at Intel. What about tablet PCs?

JJ: They haven't sold nearly as much as the vendors would have liked, and I'm wondering what users think. I've tried tablets a few times, and they're not ready for my usage model. They're getting better, and the software is still evolving. The usability is still not quite there. The ones we've seen weren't quite as stable as you'd like, with problems with restores and locking up. There appear to be bugs in the software, although they are certainly better than they were a year ago.

In general, how do you deal with standardisation of devices used at Intel? Do you follow a middle course recommended by many analysts that requires business units to pick from one of, say, three devices in order to receive support?

JJ: We try to limit devices to one supplier for laptops and handhelds. You have the [total cost of ownership] worry, so you manage costs, and if you bring in more variables and more things to update and manage, it adds to complexity. But with PDAs and smart phones, you have to be more liberal because they are changing so fast. Every three months, there's something new, and it's exciting but difficult to stay on top of things.

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