Friday, July 22, 2011

Tablet, Pad, or Car - Is it more economical to have two rather than one?

Psst - the print and online versions of various publications are not the same. The July 11 print copy of InformationWeek includes an Art Wittman column entitled "The Ultimate 'Businss' Tablet Defined." But it is based upon an online post from June entitled "The Ultimate 'Business' Pad Defined." Either a marketer or a lawyer got a hold of the title before it went to print.

But regardless of whether you're talking about tablets, specific Apple devices, or anything supplied by a business (cars, for example), Wittman's point still holds. Businesses supply items to their workers to allow them to do business, and Wittman listed a number of his ideal requirements for such an item. He concluded with this one:

Here's the potentially unreasonable part, at least from IT's point of view: I don't want my employer owning this thing. I want to own it, and I want to carve out a virtualized portion of my space for the company, not the other way around.

Wittman goes on to say:

It probably benefits the company if I do have just one device (or set of devices); I'm much more likely to always be reachable and have the right information available at all times. For some businesses and employees, security requirements won't permit such an arrangement, I get that, but I bet that number is relatively small.

Even assuming that security is not a concern for your business (it is for mine), there are potential costs for a company pursuing this arrangement. IT has spent decades creating a suite of hardware and software that it can support, and has hired personnel who are knowledgeable in these things. Whether we like it or not, it it less costly for an organization to support ten configurations than it is to support 100 configurations, or 1000 configurations.

Let's say that I was suddenly able to take my personal netbook and plug it directly into the work network. Now I happen to run Windows 7 on my netbook, so there aren't issues there. But my anti-virus software is not what the company uses, my word processor/spreadsheet/etc. application is not what the company uses, I have at least one web browser that the company doesn't use, and I have some applications (such as the scrobbler) that can consume gargantuan resources for non-business purposes).

Now the company can certainly take some steps to mitigate the problems that my netbook could cause. The company could block the scrobbler from working. Perhaps it could support some type of quick scan of my computer before it allows connection to the network. Or perhaps there's some way (better minds than I know how) to literally have a carved-off space of my netbook reserved for business purposes; maybe my netbook could just be a terminal into some virtual computer in an internal cloud.

But let's face it - any type of solution would be new, and would require change, and would result in significant expenses. And in the end, the solution that is perceived as cheaper often wins, which means that companies often stay with the status quo.

When analyzing these options, you always have to keep the company's perspective in mind. From my perspective, I have paid for my netbook, and my company has paid for my work computer, and certainly that's expensive, isn't it? Not to the company, which doesn't care whether I have a netbook or not. And even if the alternative solution meant that my company wouldn't have to buy me a computer at all - in other words, I buy a computer and the company lets me use it at work - some of the unknown costs and planning may make the alternative appear to be more expensive.

So a lot of us, at least in larger businesses, will continue to have one set of gadgets for work, and another set of gadgets for play. Oh well, at least Dell, HP, Apple, et al will sell twice as many computers.
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