Can a computer keyboard really change your life? Well, that might be overstating it a bit, but I believe it can change the way you work.
As I’ve walked around our offices and visited other companies, I’d estimate that about 80% of people have their smartphones right in the mix with all their other devices on their desk — laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse, office phone. Most have it sitting plugged in to the right or left of their keyboard. Every 15 minutes or so, it feels like you’re playing ping pong with yourself. You bounce off your keyboard to check your smartphone messages, applications, and personal life. Next, you ping pong back to your keyboard for work on your PC or Mac. A text comes in, and you bounce back over to your smartphone and so on all day long.
So now you need to make a call. Do you ping pong to your VOIP phone? Or is that just for your company-voicemail-depository kicks? I see most people using a smartphone, since it’s easier to dial and quicker to just use your preferred earbuds.
I’m no different. My smartphone sits in a stand directly below my two monitors. It’s part convenience, and part necessity. With smartphones basically functioning as a mobile computer, I have access to my three email accounts, texting, voicemail, the web, a speaker phone, Google® Docs, music, photos, not to mention all my apps. I’d bet I’ve used the VOIP phone on my desk two or three times in the last six months.
But with that convenience of the smartphone, there’s a tradeoff. The daily game of ping pong at my desk between computer and smartphone was giving me whiplash and slowing me down. Smartphones have so much power these days that they function like a mini computer. There are really only two things stopping everyone from using their phone like their laptop – the small screen size and the difficulties that come with using the virtual keyboard for long periods of time. The notebook or desktop is still needed for local processing, storage, and securing work.
When I think about it, there’s really a ton of cross-pollination between smartphones and computers, but when we work, we work with them isolated in their own silos. Have you ever sent an email to yourself, or sent photos to yourself, or logged into your Evernote® or OneNote™ files to “sync” your notes? My 8-year-old son asked me the other day what I was doing, and I said, “I am sending an email to myself.” He said, “I thought you’re supposed to send email to other people. That doesn’t make any sense.” He walked away shaking his head.
To help stop all the ping-ponging, I started using a Switchable Keyboard. A switchable keyboard has two communication channels, one for your PC or Mac and another for your smartphone or tablet. This allows me to alternate between my Windows® PC and my Android™ smartphone without skipping a beat, simply via hot key (control + 1). It’s a full-sized keyboard that’s wired to my laptop docking station, just like the keyboard setup I’ve used for the last 20 years. It uses Bluetooth® to connect to my Android smartphone. I’d estimate I’m using my smartphone about 30%-40% more per week now that I have a keyboard that allows me to do so many things without touching the phone. It feels like a 2nd computer at times. Mobile operators must love this!
It took me about four days for muscle memory to kick in on the right keys for the corresponding actions on the Android smartphone. Now, instead of ping pong, I’m basically integrating the two devices and I’m working faster and smarter.
I predict the Kensington KP400 Switchable Keyboard is just the start in a wave of future products that will change our desk in the coming years. In my next post, I’ll talk about what I think all of our desks are going to look like in the not-too-distant future.