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9/27/2006
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Consumer Tech In IT? Why Not?

This notion of consumer-meets-corporate isn't new, of course. An InformationWeek cover story from March talked about how companies can tap into the energy of consumer technologies from MP3 players to cell phones. Mostly this hasn't happened; security concerns and tightened IT budgets, not to mention good-old-fashioned fear of the unknown, have conspired against this. But the wall between the two is sta

Now that the technology sector is apparently growing steadily again, at least according to a new study by the American Electronics Association, we can all turn to the task at hand: incorporating more types of consumer technologies into corporate computing.The news coming out of this week's Demo conference will help on this score. As usual the Demo stuff is pretty cool, but this year it's because many of the upstarts are really beginning to marry the corporate and consumer worlds. Koral, for one, is a content management vendor pitching itself as a Wikipedia for corporate information. The idea is to help employees collaborate more quickly and efficiently.

Another, Dash Navigation, is a hands-free navigation system with a twist: Not only does it send you updated traffic data for your current location, but it also uploads the information to anyone at the office who may need to know you're stuck on the road. The downside: no more "white lies" about why we're late to meetings.

A third, Pluggd's HearHere, is a search tool for audio and video that uses speech and image recognition to find the reference you're looking for.

Another example of consumer technology in the business world is using online chat as a way of solving computer-related problems more quickly. While this may not be on the wish list of IT pros who might not be so receptive to the idea of yet another type of "instant interruption," almost 70% of the business users responding to a new survey said this would be a swell idea because it would be faster and easier than using the phone.

This notion of consumer-meets-corporate isn't new, of course. An InformationWeek cover story from March talked about how companies can tap into the energy of consumer technologies from MP3 players to cell phones. Mostly this hasn't happened; security concerns and tightened IT budgets, not to mention good-old-fashioned fear of the unknown, have conspired against this.

But the wall between the two is starting to crack, and I believe it will crumble altogether within a decade or so.

And speaking of consumer and corporate worlds colliding, Microsoft's new social networking spin-off has launched. Wallop is invitation-only, though, and maybe I'm missing something here, but isn't that antithetical to the notion of a "social network"? I realize the company may be trying to borrow what's been a successful marketing tack from Google, but the Gmail ship has long sailed. And especially given how Wallop is trying to sell graphics and other features that people can use to decorate their personal profile pages, similar to virtual worlds, the invite-only notion seems a bit stifling.

This is in direct contrast to Facebook's newest ploy, which is to invite everyone. As my colleague Keith Ferrell muses in a recent blog entry: "Are social networking sites open, broad-based personal communication places or are they more like country clubs with restricted membership lists?"

What do you think? Will Wallop pack a punch anyway, and what about the notion of consumer tech in IT? Do you see a place for it in your own shop? Weigh in below.This notion of consumer-meets-corporate isn't new, of course. An InformationWeek cover story from March talked about how companies can tap into the energy of consumer technologies from MP3 players to cell phones. Mostly this hasn't happened; security concerns and tightened IT budgets, not to mention good-old-fashioned fear of the unknown, have conspired against this. But the wall between the two is starting to crack, and I believe it will crumble altogether within a decade or so.

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