The desk is no longer the only place for a desktop

The future of the desktop is as uncertain as the definition for it, according to Jenny Cockram.

Cockram, an account executive with NewsEDGE Canada, said if Bill Gates has his way the desktop will be anything in your home with a chip in it.

“The desktop could be anything,” she told a group attending the recent Information Highways 2000 conference in Toronto. “People want their information to come to them.”

She added the desktop, whether it is a PC, laptop, palm device or cell phone, is evolving to become a tool for answering questions people ask, and the ones they didn’t think to.

“Desktops are set to give alerts, link to recent reports, links to seminars, access related Web sites and subscribe to journals,” Cockram explained.

Cockram stated the future desktop for business-to-business links is one that contains a user profile, and knows where a person is located, what one requests, what one needs to track information and how one wants that information.

She said companies are using desktop tools to make the retrieval of information as easy as possible for employees and customers but she questions whether these services really made ease life for client or workers. With all the changes, she noted everyone is constantly learning new systems.

Ron MacSpadyen, director of business development at 11 COREINFO Research, noted the changing desktop continues to speed up many jobs.

“Take faxing from the desktop,” he explained to the group. “Before, faxing two pages would have taken 15 minutes, now it’s done in two keystrokes.”

MacSpadyen added that in the past, if a customer complained, many small businesses would have to look up customer information in a file room. “This has changed with databases. I would urge people to think about what those small things are that give big product gains.”

MacSpadyen noted office intranets are a big part of today’s desktop. He said intranets help bring a social side out in an organization and could be more useful than the Internet.

“It’s something to see when you ask users what they want. They want lottery picks on the intranet, March madness results. It’s very social,” he said. “Our experience in small business is that intranets sort of make their way onto the desktop.”

He recommended that companies promote their intranet and build on it, including adopting a “knowledge map.

“This lists employee knowledge that is not necessarily important to the job. These would be skill sets we have that are not considered private or proprietary,” MacSpadyen explained.

He added employees spend 56 per cent of their on-line time searching for jobs.

Cockram agreed network systems are ever-changing, but added that they do crash. “Network systems cause problems. They do. But we have to look back and think, ‘How did we work without them?'” she joked.

The CIO of Seneca College of Applied Arts in Toronto, Terrence Verity, said the desktop is changing the focus from intranet to personal portal.

“It now holds the different tools each person needs to do the job,” he stated, adding Seneca’s new Web site includes a personal page for each student, faculty and staff member.

“Once you focus, in our case, on the desktop as the focal point for customers you are creating personal portals,” Verity added.