“Now that technology is being used more fluidly than ever before, consumers have the power to personalise not just how technology is used but how it’s designed.”-Robin Lloyd, General Manager for HP Printing and Personal Systems,Tarsus Distribution
The line between consumer and commercial is blurring and in its place stands the prosumer. These newly-empowered customers are shifting not only how we use technology, but also how manufacturers think about both form and function.
“People are no longer affixed to two separate devices,” says Robin Lloyd, Tarsus Distribution’s General Manager for HP Printing and Personal Systems. Where people used to have a device for work and another for home, this is no longer the case. “With the pandemic, people are now sitting at home with a notebook and expecting to do everything on it. They want to be able to do their work but also use the device for their personal life. This is why the line between commercial and consumer is blurring.”
A device today needs to be able to cater for the user’s requirements, wherever they may be. “But historically, a work PC was built around security and the job at hand -producing output,” explains Lloyd. “On the consumer side, it was about gaming, the right graphics card, capable specs... it was never about security as itwas expected that the home user would install an anti-virus. Now, we need one device that is manageable, that has all the security requirements and has to be capable of fulfilling our social requirements.”
Before hybrid work and the pandemic, the business devices that companies would roll out would be bought to ensure that an employee could perform their job. “It would suffice -no one would have thought to take home their work PC to play games and stream content. Most people left their device at the office because bringing it home was never a requirement,” adds Lloyd.
This shift in useability has disrupted the IT sector. Now that technology is being used more fluidly than ever before, consumers have the power to personalise not just how technology is used but how it’s designed.
“It's all about a holistic solution inside your PC - the ability to create, produce and consume,” says Lloyd. “It’s not about a desktop or a notebook being better, or simply utilising what technology is given to us, it’s about a person’s choice and what the prosumer actually needs - this is what is driving the prosumer trend.”
As a result, vendors are now having to listen to consumer requirements. Traditional commercial PC devices built for the office are no longer suitable for the new hybrid workplace. A single device can serve the needs of both environments. “The prosumer is dictating a lot more about the technology trends than what was in the past with the vendor and a lot of this frustration (from a user perspective) came from BYOD - bring your own device.”
The BYOD trend of allowing employees to use their own computers and smartphones at work was seen as both forward-thinking and risky. While it was shown to improve worker morale and productivity, there were many security risks to consider including data and device theft.
“People would buy a consumer device and bring it into the workplace for their IT team to setup only to discover that it couldn’t be managed remotely. There was not only a security risk on these devices but also the issue that many less-expensive consumer machines weren’t capable of running inside a corporate environment,” says Lloyd.
Where business notebooks were once chunky and heavy, it was easy to see the appeal of BYOD consumer machines that, in comparison, looked sleek and elegant. “Today, the new commercial devices are sleek and light. You can no longer really tell the difference between a consumer device and a commercial device by its looks and this is partially due to the prosumer impact,” explains Lloyd. “While a business device will always have a higher manageability and the security features required from an organisational networking perspective, not so much so that consumer devices are null and void. More often the physical specs match each other.”
Lloyd believes one of the biggest drivers of prosumerism is education. The idea of one, family device doesn’t work when everyone needs to be online. Schools require devices for both consuming and creating content. Another driver is portability - while a laptop works for the home and office, being able to work from anywhere is increasingly important to the prosumer.
“Is the word ‘prosumer’ just new terminology to describe the evolution of work?” asks Lloyd. “I believe it’s a natural progression of a hybrid office environment and the future of work. To embrace the prosumer, a business needs to put the right device inside the hands of an employee to be able to perform their function from anywhere.”