SMBs Reject False Dichotomy Between Enterprise And Consumer Tech - InformationWeek
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Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul

SMBs Reject False Dichotomy Between Enterprise And Consumer Tech

Too many tech insiders see the world as consumer versus enterprise technology. They're missing a key component of the market: small and midsize businesses. And their blinders are leading to some seriously misguided conclusions.

Mark Anderson of Strategic News Service was recently quoted saying: “The computer world is splitting apart, into two separate continents, consumer and enterprise.” Anderson has got it all wrong. And here's why.

Anderson's predictive newsletter, The Strategic News Service, is highly respected, but like all too many tech insiders, he's missing a key component of the market: small and midsize businesses.

As quoted by Steve Lohr in the New York Times' Bits blog, Anderson is most concerned about Microsoft's failures in the mobile market and how that indicates that the giant company doesn't understand consumers: “Phones are consumer items, and Microsoft doesn’t have consumer DNA... Walk the halls at Microsoft and you can see it is not a place that gets consumers. Just as if you walk the halls at Google, it’s obvious it is not a place that gets the enterprise world.”

Mary-Jo Foley blogged Anderson's ten predictions for 2010, and number 7 is telling:

"A huge chasm opens in computing, between Consumer and Enterprise (government/business), with Apple, Google and most Asian hardware companies in Consumer, and Dell, IBM, Cisco, and MS on the Enterprise side. HP will straddle both. Before 2010, talk was all about unifying consumer and enterprise. Now, talk will be about their split."


I'm not going to sit here and defend Windows Mobile, for heaven's sake, but by splitting the world into the enterprise and consumer camps, Anderson -- and Lohr and Foley, for that matter -- are falling into an all-too-common trap. They're all forgetting about the huge, vibrant, and still growing SMB market, which is in the unique position of being able to leverage all kinds of technology.

Foley says she's "never been a big believer in the consumerization of IT," but she's thinking only of enterprise IT. While big corporations have a well-founded fear of consumer technologies, smaller companies are eagerly grabbing appropriate technology solutions from where-ever they appear. Consumer, or enterprise, it doesn't matter as long as it gets the job done.

Take cloud computing, for example. Anderson predicts:

"There will be a Cloud Catastrophe in 2010 that limits Cloud growth by raising security issues and restricting enterprise trust. CIOs will see the cloud as the doorstep for industrial espionage."

That's nothing but a red herring. Sure there will be cloud problems in 2010, and they'll get big media play. But there will lots of issues with private data centers as well, they just won't get the headlines.

The real point is that for all but the very largest and richest companies, cloud computing will continue to be safer and more reliable than running their own data centers. SMBs know this already, larger companies are resisting it mostly because of their massive investments in legacy systems. Investments that are tied to IT jobs from CIO all the way down to tech support.

If you take an objective look at today's technology landscape, so-called consumer technologies very often offer superior performance and value compared to their enterprise counterparts. That's why SMBs embraced innovations like the iPhone even as enterprises dissed it as a mere "consumer" device (Back in 2008, I heard an IT guy say that if the CEO came go him asking for iPhone, he'd respond "Don't be a child." We're now seeing the exact same kind of semi-suicidal, head-in-the-sand thinking concerning cloud computing.

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