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6/16/2011
04:43 PM
Rob Preston
Rob Preston
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Consumerization Of IT Is No Fad

If you need any more proof, check out Microsoft's thinking about the key rivals to Windows Phone 7 and Office 365 in the enterprise.

If you think the consumerization of enterprise IT is just a yarn spun by pundits with too much time on their hands, consider this: Microsoft says the future of one of its make-or-break products, Windows Phone 7, rests on its ability to win over consumers and have them take the devices to work en masse through the proverbial "back door." Google, Apple, and myriad other consumer electronics and application players are eyeing the same circuitous path into the enterprise—and like Microsoft, they're not as bashful as they once were about saying so. Some will succeed; others won't. But the movement is unstoppable.

It's already accepted that 20-somethings are far more inclined than previous generations to download their own Web apps and use their own devices to get work done. But this isn't just a fad, like bringing your dog to work or playing foosball in the office commons. Yet many IT organizations treat it as one.

At an Interop roundtable discussion last month where there was much harrumphing about IT consumerization, InformationWeek columnist Jonathan Feldman, a government IT exec by day, spoke with a participant who wondered: When are CIOs going to get it? In a follow-up, Feldman wrote: "Well, the CIOs I talk with do get it, but they're vastly outnumbered by their staff, and staffers don't necessarily get it yet. CIOs are going to have to take the time to educate their staff in what consumerization is, why it's not going away, and how it may even make their lives easier or better. What if you could actually focus on business problems and apps instead of focusing so much on infrastructure?"

Microsoft is starting to get it. In positioning its forthcoming Office 365 suite, which includes online and on-premises versions of Office, Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, Microsoft sees its main competitors as consumer players like Google and the Web 2.0 crowd, not so much the blue bloods like IBM. Terry Myerson, VP of Windows Phone engineering, says he no longer considers RIM's BlackBerry, supported by the security and management of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server, Microsoft's chief rival in the business smartphone market. "I would have said that several years ago," he says, "but not now." Myerson adds: "At the front door, RIM has a very good position due to the BES. But in terms of units and influence, I think the back door [read: iOS and Android] is driving more innovation."

The consumerization trend, he says, sometimes requires separating consumer and enterprise functionality on the same app or device. "We have this tremendous enterprise asset with Office and all things Office," Myerson says. "And we're developing this wonderful consumer asset with what I'll call Xbox and all things Xbox, and I might include music and video and games in there. And if we could bring to the consumer this phone which has the best of Xbox and the best of Office, I think it's an incredible proposition to everyone—if IT can have the security and manageability they want for their sandbox on the phone, and the consumer can have an avatar where they're dressed as a ninja smack-talking with their friends on the consumer side of the phone."

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But let's not confuse consumerization with sloppy business IT. In an excellent column on our sister site The BrainYard, Real Story Group president Tony Byrne explains why "consumerization" tops his Enterprise 2.0 B.S. list—mostly because proponents tend to pump up consumer techs as inherently "better" for businesses, regardless of their enterprise utility (consider the Second Life mania of a few years ago). "Your co-workers don't need a new application that will represent them with a 3-D avatar," Byrne writes. "What they need is a human-friendly mobile interface into their workaday team spaces. Productivity is the new sexy."

Rob Preston,
VP and Editor in Chief, InformationWeek
rpreston@techweb.com

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To find out more about Rob Preston, please visit his page.

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