FRAMINGHAM, 15 MARCH 2011 - Does it seem to you that everyone and his brother wants to bring his own gear into the office now? You've got people wanting to bring their Apple iPads to work, users who want to use their iPhones or Android Droid 2s instead of their company-supplied Blackberries as their smartphone, and someone out there has surely tried to bring an Xbox 360 and Kinect to work for ... uh ... three-dimensional motion analysis? Yeah! That's the ticket!
OK, so maybe no one has tried, successfully, to get an Xbox and Kinect into the office, but people are always trying to bring their tech toys to work. As Patrick Thibodeau tweeted from this year's Computerworld Premier 100 conference , "CIOs who don't support employee-owned devices, smartphones, iPads, etc., may be a minority: i.e. dinosaurs."
This isn't just talk. According to Nielsen's latest smartphone market research, RIM is currently in a marketing-share dead heat with Apple's iOS and Google's Android , but it's losing ground. Forty-three percent of recent smartphone buyers purchased an Android device, compared to 26% for Apple iOS and 20% for RIM's Blackberry.
Of course, some companies, such as Wells Fargo, just say no to all personal phones and tablets . They seem to be in the minority, though. But what the heck is a CIO, CTO or anyone in IT support to do? Support multiple platforms with the same budget? That's exactly what most companies seem to be trying to do. But there are no serious management tools that can handle iPads , iPhones and Android phones. There are companies trying to do it -- Good Technologies and BoxTone come to mind -- but no one has emerged as a market leader.
There are complications beyond that. Android Market, as we painfully discovered recently, has real security problems . What's the IT department to do? Turn off the app store functionality? How? Remove user-installed applications? I don't think so! Insist that users only run approved applications? Good luck with that! Insist they all install an antivirus program of the company's choice? Well, that's probably doable, but it's not perfect.
The problem isn't just the IT department's, though. Let's say an iPhone user gets laid off and the powers that be want all corporate e-mails off the phone now. How do you deal with that? It's a darn good question, and I don't have a great answer. I don't think anyone does at this point.
This isn't the first time we have run into this kind of problem. I can remember well when PCs were first coming into the office. In the places I worked in the '70s and '80s -- Beltway bandit IT firms -- many of the first PCs belonged to employees. IT kept trying to keep us on mainframes or minicomputers, but once you went PC, you couldn't go back.
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