Sunday, September 9, 2012

Does the new Amazon Kindle Fire mean the end of BYOD?

Amazon set the tablet market buzzing last week with the announcement of its new line of 7-inch and 9-inch Kindle Fires.  As with the Microsoft Surface announcement earlier in the year, the news got me thinking about the impact of these new devices on the enterprise.
The logical answer is that the more devices there are, the more different devices that consumers are going to have.  And, since iPad-toting employees have been pressuring IT to help them access enterprise resources with those devices, they are very likely to try the same thing with any device they have.
So, the more types of tablets and other mobile devices there are, the more likely that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) becomes the norm in corporations.  And IT will have to figure out a strategy to keep up.
Or maybe not.
I saw a post by Galen Gruman of InfoWorld on Friday that actually posited that exact opposite.  If the Kindle Fire is successful against the iPad at home, he suggests, it might actually decrease the likelihood that BYOD carries the day in enterprises.
Intrigued?  Here’s his logic:
The new Kindle Fire, which Galen notes is “aimed squarely at the iPad's home users,” is part of Amazon’s effort “to supplant the iTunes-centric Apple ecosystem with an Amazon-centric one.”  If the Kindle Fire picks up steam and consumers prefer that device as their “home” tablet, “that could reshape the iPad's role in business.”
And, since the Kindle Fire isn’t really enterprise-ready, the iPad would continue to fill the that role.  In fact, the iPad might become only your “work” tablet, perhaps even become company-issued devices the way PCs used to be.
The difference is this:  if people use the Kindle Fire at home and the iPad at work, the iPad is no longer that single, unified platform someone would use for both across both worlds.  Galen called this single platform “the fundamental enabler of the consumerization and BYOD phenomena.”
Given this, despite a great proliferation of new devices, the iPad would become the only corporate tablet that everyone optimizes and plans for.  Good-bye, BYOD.
Sure, these are all big “if"s, but they are (as Galen notes) “plausible enough to contemplate.”
IT would probably cheer the death of BYOD.  Ironically, IT normally prefers a situation where they have choice.  However, the BYOD scenario represents too much of a good thing – and it results in options over which they have no control at all, despite the serious security and cost concerns for the enterprise.  Choice, at least in the case of BYOD, is pricey for IT.
However, I don’t think enterprise IT should toss out those half-written BYOD policy papers quite yet.
As much as IT would love to only have to architect and plan for the iPad, I think the BYOD genie is already out of the bottle.  Now that employees realize they can choose their own tablet or mobile phone (or both) and it's just part of IT's lot in life to figure out how to make a wide range of devices productive in an enterprise environment, I don’t think there’s any going back.
Not that enterprises have BYOD completely figured out yet, but users have tasted this control thing– and they like it.  A lot.  Even the teams we are working with at large financial firms (including UBS) are certainly planning for the iPads that employees own, but also other multiple other types of devices, too.
On Twitter, Galen also noted some good news for fans of the freedom that BYOD brings: iPad/iPhone, Windows 8, and Android “all are BYOD-supporting. Maybe WinPhone8 will join in.” Kindle, Windows Phone 7, and Blackberry?  Not so much.
Either way, it looks to be a pretty heated Battle of the Network Stars (er, Ecosystems) for the home entertainment mindshare for Amazon and Apple.  Google plus Android and Microsoft are in the mix, too.
I have to say that the iPad’s monstrous marketshare and popularity make me think that Apple doesn’t have much to worry about.  For the moment, anyway.
However, the fact that this is even an interesting question in the first place is a testament to the impact of consumerization on IT.   For the first time, these battles over the home market could have very serious implications on enterprise IT investment strategies, planning, and even hiring.
No question:  that genie is definitely out of the bottle.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

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