What Gates and Jobs had to say about mobile vs. desktop

As our everyday lives become increasingly dependent on smartphones, we have to ask ourselves, “Is there any value in desktop banking being part of your product strategy?” The argument of desktop vs. Mobile rages on in board meetings around the country. While most financial institutions offer home banking through a web browser (48.4% of the more than 108 million credit union members used their credit union’s transactional website in 2016) Callahan and Associates recently announced that only 55% of credit unions offer mobile banking. While there is a lack of mobile banking being offered at nearly half of credit unions around the nation, there is still a need for transactional websites and home banking.

10 years ago, on May 30, 2007, long time competitors Bill Gates and Steve Jobs shared a stage at the D5 (All things digital) conference. They were joined by two moderators that directed the conversation to the visionaries thoughts and predictions on “post-PC devices” and the mobile world. They asked whether or not the personal computer and full desktop experience would persist into the future. Speaking of mobile devices Bill Gates said, “Yes, there are lighter weight hardware internet connections”. Transitioning to the value of the desktop experience, “but when you come to the full screen, we are nowhere near where we need to be on making that stronger.”  Clearly, Gates recognized the existence of mobile devices but was not ignoring the fact that there is still much progress to be made on improving the full screen, desktop experience, that will bring value to people’s lives.

“There will always be different screen sizes because the 5-inch screen does not compare with the 20-inch screen which doesn’t compete with the living room screen”, Gates continued. These statements remain true when it comes to digital banking. Some members will feel comfortable performing certain banking tasks on a 5-inch screen but others may not and might prefer the 20-inch screen. Age and eyesight also play a role in this conversation and some members physically aren’t able to see the information on smaller screens.

As the interview proceeded, the moderators asked, “what does the primary device or the device people use the most look like in 5 years?”  Gates responded, “I don’t think you’ll have one device. I think you’ll have a full-screen device. Then you’ll have the device that fits in your pocket.” Steve Jobs followed Gates remark by stating, “The PC has proved to be very resilient. As Bill has said, ‘the death of the PC has been predicted every few years’. The PC, as a general purpose device is going to continue to be with us and morph with us, whether it’s a tablet or a notebook or a big desktop at your house or whatever it might be.” 

Moving into the power of opportunity of a mobile world, Jobs continued, “But, then there is an explosion that is starting to happen with what we call ‘post-PC devices’, whether they are phones, iPods or what-have-you. And, I think that category of devices is going to continue to be very innovative.”

Here we are 10 years later and the founders of Apple and Microsoft couldn’t have been more correct. Within the financial sector of digital banking, there is still evident value in the full desktop internet banking experience, yet mobile banking is proving to be extremely innovative, convenient and available on devices that fit in your pocket.

In one final defense of the lively hood of desktop home banking, Gates predicted that, “eventually, you’ll be able to pick a mobile device that has the capability of navigation, mobile wallets, cameras, video cameras, etc… and yet, given the small size, you still won’t want to perform certain tasks on a screen of that size.”  What the future holds 10 years from now, we cannot tell. However, it still remains evident that full version desktop experiences are in demand despite the overwhelming adoption of mobile apps. Will mobile banking eventually kill desktop and internet banking? Time will tell.



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