Always have a smarter suit than the boss. That was the maxim of the Lambretta-riding Mod movement back in the 1960s.
Half a century on, is this going to be rephrased as “always have a smarter device than the boss”? Are we going to see technology fashion wars spread out across our organisations, and if we do, will it just be about fashion?
To some extent we are already at war. We have lived with technology one-upmanship for many years now. No office is complete without someone bragging and brandishing their latest smartphone. No sales team is complete without someone ditching and denouncing the corporate laptop and showing off the ultra-sleek notebook they have paid for from their bonus.
Their next bumper bundle is in the bag, they tell you, because of the quality of the kit they flash in front of the customers.
Deep in the bowels of the IT department a similar scenario is being acted out, though power, performance and the ability to make modifications are the bragging currency.
These fashion wars will only escalate as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies become the norm. This autumn we will see the launch of Windows 8 and a new slew of Ultrabooks on the market, to say nothing of Google’s launch of its own brand products and Android operating system updates, and not to mention the known unknown of whatever Apple has up its sleeve.
All will intensify the conflict, and then we are going to see something interesting – can fashion and functionality complement each other?
There is a debate raging about whether tablets will replace laptops and it has been fuelled by what seems to be slow take up of Ultrabooks.
Launching the Ultrabook concept a year ago Intel predicted they would account for 40% of the consumer market by the end of 2012.
Half way through 2012, that doesn’t seem to be happening, although Intel CEO Paul Otellini told analysts that on his last earning call in late July, “Ultrabooks continued to build momentum, and achieved our volume goals for the first half.”
He also said that manufacturers had 140 Ivy Bridge-based designs in the pipeline, with 40 being touch enabled and at least 10 being laptop/tablet hybrids, so we may see lift off.
Throw in Microsoft’s promised Surface tablet and new Android-based devices that reinvent the premise of the old netbooks – cheap, cheerful and just powerful enough – and we could see some interesting choices emerging.
One thing is for sure, in a genuine BYOD environment style and substance will have to exist alongside each other and will drive each other forward. There will be some bragging and some stupidity, but we are also in for a period of rapid technological evolution.
Maybe we’ll even see some real design classics emerge in the next few months to match the Lambretta scooters and Fred Perry shirts of the original 1960s mods. If we do, let’s hope we see the equally chic, fast and ultraslim Mod of the Moment, Olympic time-trial champion and Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, sport one as he defends his yellow Jersey in next year’s Grande Boucle.