I’ve been on a retro kick for the past year. Besides scooping up video game systems from my past, I’ve rebuilt my first computer, a Commodore® 64 (complete with an Ethernet card and SD card reader for good measure). It’s fully working and sits on a second desk in my office. A labor of love, that beige chassis has for me always defined the essence of what a computer is, and what it could be. The Commodore was a machine where you could understand every component—from its physical makeup to the programming language and software that ran on it.
Not only did it open the possibility of what a computer could do, it defined what a computer was. In that era, a computer was defined by a display, keyboard, and disk drives, and it required all these pieces in order to function. For many, the concept of a computer has remained locked in this configuration.
A computer isn’t defined by these physical components. The modern dictionary definition of a computer is a “programmable electronic device designed to accept data, perform prescribed mathematical and logical operations at high speed, and display the results of those operations.” Indeed, the movie “Hidden Figures” reminds us, computers were once defined as people doing the math calculations for rocket launches.
The reality is that the “computer” is much more than what solution providers think about. Describing your business as “computer support” often implies a subsection of devices, limiting the view in a detrimental way.
Names of devices matter. What we refer to as our “phones” creates a perception that limits our view to what is likely the least used function for a device that is orders of magnitude more powerful than my Commodore 64. This is a device that can access all of humanity’s knowledge, interact with voice, and connect with anyone on the planet. It’s much more than a phone.
The introduction of new classes of device expands our thinking. If you’ve worked with an Amazon® Alexa® device or Google® Home, you are interacting with an incredibly powerful computer, entirely without a display. While most of the processing doesn’t happen on the device in your home or office, the device is clearly a computer, and capable of processing data and returning results.
In fact, many devices that do not conform to what we traditionally associate with the word “computer” should be thought of exactly in the same way. Modern cars come complete with IP connectivity, and the shift to new smart devices creates new interface paradigms. In particular, voice interaction will open new ways to compute, creating new classes of productivity.
For solution providers, this means removing the blinkers that restrict their view of the kinds of computing devices available and that should be considered for management. Each of these new “computers” requires security and management, containing business critical data and workflows that require optimizing.
By evolving their perspective of what constitutes a computer, solution providers ensure they are not missing out on critical new opportunities or ignoring potential threats to their customers. Building systems for these new computers that drive modern business is a huge source of opportunity for solution providers.
Dave Sobel is Senior Director of Community and Field Marketing at SolarWinds MSP. You can follow Dave on Twitter® at @djdaveet
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