Dec 11, 2009
Disruptive Innovation: The New Paradigm in End User Devices
When it comes to innovation, expectations are funny things. Folks generally anticipate that emerging technologies will look about the same as the status quo, just with more bells and bigger whistles. IT professionals pride ourselves on being open to new ideas, yet we tend to react to true sea change with incredulity, if not outright hostility.
If you asked a typical technologist in 1999, for example, whether there’s likely intelligent life outside our solar system, we’ll bet most would have said absolutely yes. But suggest that the vast majority of enterprise end users would be able to eschew Microsoft’s expensive and full-featured Office suite, move productivity tasks to the Internet, and trade in the Redmond upgrade treadmill for ongoing Google service charges, and they would have looked at you like you were one of those space aliens. But fast forward to 2009, and voila! Google has made significant inroads into the enterprise productivity space by capturing e-mail and documents in just that crazy way.
Similarly, when we analyzed responses from the 558 business technology professionals who responded to our InformationWeek Analytics survey on end user devices, we couldn’t help but shake our heads. On the poll’s main premise—does it make sense to get away from the short-lifecycle upgrade treadmill of powerful, fat PC devices—the answer was, essentially: Well, it might, but most of us are pretty busy right now and don’t have time to thi
nk about anything but fat clients with some enhancements.
"A few executives have smartphones and laptops, but all other employees are using desktops only,” says one respondent. “Current mobile end user devices pose a significant risk to the security of our data and network, and to bring end user devices up to the point where we can implement them on a widespread basis would require extensive capital investment and reengineering of our network.”
Really? We’re playing the reengineering card? Let’s look at the context in which IT continues to deploy those fat and expensive desktops. Budgets have been slashed. Netbooks and advanced smartphones are wildly popular with consumers—your end users. Desktop applications are becoming less necessary, and fat devices themselves continue to be labor-intensive to manage. Like nonvirtualized servers of old, desktop PCs tend to have lots of resources standing idle. And we’re serving an increasingly mobile and tech-savvy workforce.
Technologists must look at this time as a crossroads. We need to be open to disruptive innovation. Sure, security and management are challenges, but we can handle them. And if not, we may need to find a new line of work.