There’s a fast-approaching disconnect between the devices IT managers want employees to use and the devices employees actually want to use. The reason is simple; the device market is maturing and consumer choice is more diverse than it has ever been.
A decade ago it was easy. The dominant computing platform was Windows and this is what the vast majority of people used at work and at home. Today that world is very different.
Often this trend is called the BYOD or the consumerization of IT. But when you think about it, it is not that IT was consumer-ized, it is that the entire industry was consumer-ized.
Hardware companies found there was more money to be made by focusing on the global consumer audience rather than mainly the IT buyers. In my opinion the shift happened around 2003-2004 and it has radically altered how hardware companies think.
Now a common theme I hear from companies is that if you want to compete in the enterprise, you have to compete for the consumer.
Consumers are engaging with smart devices and the ecosystems that support them now more then ever. They are embedding these solutions into their home and family lives. So it’s not surprising that as enterprises support bring your own device policies, that these same consumers are bringing the solutions they themselves have chosen to primarily use.
What IT wants, what users want
Meanwhile, IT managers are voicing their desire to support some platforms over others. For example, I often hear pundits say that many IT managers would prefer to support Windows tablets over iPads and even Android tablets.
But the question that comes to mind when I hear this is, what if the employees don’t want to use Windows tablets? What if they want to use iPad? More importantly, what if they are more comfortable using iPads and can arguably get more work done efficiently if they use the product they want not, not the product IT wants them to use? This is the heart of the schism I see brewing.
I understand there are security concerns, and policy issues, but I would argue that giving workers the tools they are the most comfortable using is the right productivity strategy. With regards to tablets, this BYOD philosophy may be even more important than it is with PCs.
Annual PC shipments are on the decline yet tablet shipments continue to rise. It seems as though many consumers are content with the PC they have at home or at work and don’t feel incredibly compelled to get a new one yet.
Our data shows that tablets make it possible to hold onto PCs longer, thus drastically reducing the refresh cycle the PC industry once needed to stay on pace.
I don’t see this changing anytime soon but the role of the tablet as a PC companion becomes very interesting.
The advance of the hyper-mobile device
Many employees who are provided with PCs are typically provided desktops not notebooks. What if more employees had a hyper mobile device like a tablet and could use it to roam their work space, go to meetings, go outside, etc., and still have access to critical work material?
We don’t see tablets fully replacing the PC and this will be especially true for knowledge workers. But I can see many instances where the tablet is a companion or complementary to the PC.
This is not the full premise of many of the hybrid Windows 8 PCs we see today. Those devices from my standpoint thus far are heavily compromised PCs and heavily compromised tablets, not the best of both worlds - even though that’s how they’re being marketed.
From an IT standpoint these solutions seem attractive because it is easier to support one device rather than two. However, what if using two solutions is actually better than just using one? What if employees want to use the best PC from a form factor, performance, and functionality standpoint and the best tablet together as a solution?
These are the kinds of solution based trends we are seeing gain interest from some small test deployments.
Enterprise IT buyers and managers have never liked change. But I remain confident that the way we work today will be very different from the way we work tomorrow. Tablets, in my opinion, play a key role in bringing that vision to reality. But if we are to get from here to there, enterprises need to fully embrace supporting the devices that consumers have chosen to work the best for them.
(The upcoming Tablet Strategy conference in New York on April 30 will include a "Beyond BYOD" session that looks at how the trend is impacting the enterprise).