Friday, 13 June 2008

Consumerisation of IT - iPhone?

I have written about the consumerisation of IT in enterprises before but after the WWDC event in San Francisco this week, where Apple described its new iPhone, I thought it was worth considering how much of a catalyst this type of device could be.

While many people, especially in the general media, will have focused on yet another shiny and polished hardware launch this week by Apple, it is the version 2.0 firmware which will power the device that perhaps is most relevant in the context of a catalyst for consumerisation.  The gadget maker has listened to corporates and other enterprises, through a carefully managed beta trial programme, and added a whole host of enterprise-essential features to what began its life a year ago as a high-end consumer product.  It has quietly worked with the carriers who offer iPhone in many different geographies to ensure that they will have service contracts which appeal to business users going forward.  

So imagine what is happening now in a majority of the top blue-chip businesses around the world (let alone all those other corporates further down the food chain)?  The top people want the latest phone, they want the best mobile browsing experience, they demand a device which is so simple to use that they will use a majority of its features, and they want one device which enables them to converge their private life with their working life.  And what do businesses want?  They want the devices their people use to securely access corporate information and applications, to integrate its simple user interface with the mail and messaging systems that they already invest in, and to be able to securely control the rollout of access to corporate systems to only their employees.  IT departments are typically very scared of employees mixing work and non-work, customising mobile devices and the headache which has typically existed in the general management of such gadgets issued to their people.  The 2.0 firmware addresses much of this concern and could provide a permanent aspirin for the IT headache.

It seems like a perfect match.  But as I said in my previous article, the corporate IT department will never be able to keep up with the innovation cycle of products such as iPhone, with their accelerated churn rates and the updated feature releases, with the cost base that implies.  From that perspective it seems like a show-stopper.  Corporate IT departments will never love the devices they issue, but 90% of users love their iPhones.  The solution may well be a cultural shift to support this piece of the jigsaw which also mediates the inevitably higher relative pricing compared to more standard corporately issued kit.  Consumerisation of the enterprise mobile desktop will be given a substantial 'shot in the arm' when the new iPhone is released in mid-July.  

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