Consumer tech seeping Into IT

The consumerization of IT continues apace. Over the past two years, I have been watching technology products and services initially developed for consumers and small businesses have an increasingly significant impact on enterprise computing. In fact, I wrote two columns on that topic: "Keeping Up With Your IT Consumers" and "Change at Hand for PC Management".

The two main points I made then still hold true today: 1) Many employees have better IT equipment and services at home than at work, and thus can no longer be treated like children who need to be told what to do, and 2) the public infrastructure that is emerging for consumers is in many ways superior to the private infrastructures typically provided by enterprise IT. Examples include e-mail, storage, wireless, collaboration and a wide range of specific applications. I wrote that the tension generated by the contrast between this ever-more-powerful public infrastructure and the aging private infrastructures of most companies would be one of the defining IT issues of the decade.

Over the past year, these trends have continued to gain traction, and the idea of consumerization has risen in importance and recognition. The following are among the current trends:

-- Cafeteria-style purchasing plans. Companies are experimenting with giving employees personal technology budgets to better meet their IT needs.

-- Browser-based applications. The emergence of Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, better known as AJAX, is helping to close the once-large performance gap between client/server and browser-based systems.

-- Consumerized offices. Large companies with small branches and international offices have been quick to use public infrastructure instead of much more costly private facilities.