The rise of consumer tech

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How is your company handling the rising tide of consumer smartphones, like the iPhone?

I've asked that question of a lot of IT professionals over the past couple of years. Here's one response: "We're fully behind the iPhone at my company. We're replacing BlackBerries where and when we can. The iPhone user experience trumps [our IT] management concerns. We make it happen for the ones who want it." But I've also heard the contrasting view, the one you might sum up as, "We have our users so locked down, we don't worry about the iPhone or its ilk."

IT pros who answer either way underestimate their users or the degree of trouble multiple types of half-secured consumer devices can get them into. You may be handling it now, but how about when your employees dump their desktops for their own iPads or similar devices? How about when the numbers really mount? Have you kept pace with the number of smartphones being released? And many users have two or three of these devices.

The consumerization of IT is becoming a landslide, big enough to have its own acronym -- I nominate "CoIT." But I'm not sure many enterprises are all that aware of it.

Computerworld recently ran a story about an Exchange ActiveSync issue that apparently causes Apple's iPhone 4, or any device running Apple's iOS 4 mobile operating system (the iPad will get it in September), to bang on the Exchange server if it can't get synced right away. Server admins are not going to like that. And I don't really need to lay out for you all of the more profound security and compliance issues.

So IT organizations need to think this through. Larger enterprises with thousands of employees are absolutely going to need help, whether it's homegrown or an enterprise application such as Sybase's iAnywhere or BoxTone's Mobile Service Management. The time to think about this is now. Mobile devices have matured, and they offer significant advantages to their users. Have you even figured out what the potential dangers are for your company? Most IT organizations don't have a lot of information about the usage of consumer devices in their midst.

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