It's Not About Apple vs. Microsoft, Or Apple vs. Google. It's About Freedom.

By David Johnson
30 Aug 2011 View Comments
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We are learning once again that what people want most is to be free


John Quincy Adams (sixth President of the US) said: "Who but shall learn that freedom is the prize… and on the oppressor's head to break the chain." Glorious change. Monumental change. Empowerment and Freedom. I submit humbly but with absolute conviction to all of you that we are in the midst of revolution in personal computing - the extent of which we will only fully comprehend once it's over, and established vendors and IT leaders alike are scattered on the side of the road.

It's not about Microsoft vs. Apple or Google vs. Apple. It's about freedom. Freedom from control. Freedom from establishments. Freedom of identity. Freedom from IT departments too understaffed and ill-equipped to help. Freedom from layers of management agents and miscellaneous junk that sap minutes to hours of productive time from our lives every day. The price of compliance and security you say? Hogwash.

End user experience is at an all-time low


The end user experience has deteriorated to the point that we sit and wait while the hourglass spins, as IT's remote bots take inventory, or install software updates while we're frantically trying to get our slides together for a customer meeting. The mindless bots scan for threats and lock the cursor while we're trying to write an e-mail, and we get embarrassing pop-up reminders while we're presenting to rooms full of people to make sure we know to update Adobe Acrobat. We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more! Who gave someone the right to assume that what their tool needs to do at any given moment is more important than the work we have to get done?

High performers are being hanged for taking matters into their own hands


Our workspaces don't belong to us any more, so more and more of us are choosing to go it alone and risk the wrath. One of the brightest people I know was fired from a company recently because his IT department determined he was violating security policy by using his personal computer in the office rather than the one IT provided. The one IT provided was too underpowered for his job, so he had purchased one (with his own money) that would work. In any rational situation, he might have been rewarded for his commitment. Instead, he was dismissed, and his former employer's top competitor snapped him up in less than two weeks -- this guy had closed $3m in business last year. It's lunacy! I go back to John Quincy Adams again: "To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse." Perhaps this thinking has something to offer us.

It doesn't have to be like this


So what do we as I&O professionals do? We can start by embracing the idea that less is more, and that the best way to shape behavior is to create value where you want people to go. As you are developing your support plans for virtual desktops and mobile devices, and you think "how will we control…", stop yourself. Think instead about how you will make it easier for people to adopt these devices without breaking the regulations your business is sworn to uphold. The client virtualization mobile apps from Citrix and VMware are a great help here, and the LogMeIn client for remote control of any desktop is the best I've seen. Think in terms of automated configuration for e-mail on iOS and Android to ease the burden on the user and the service desk. Make sure both e-mail addresses AND phone numbers are in Exchange so that everyone in the firm using a mobile device can call any other employee.

New technologies must be allowed to unleash new levels of productivity and value


For virtual desktops, try to figure out how to manage them without the same layers of agents you used on the physical desktops. I saw some interesting technology from a company called Ziften this week that looks promising because it controls how much CPU, memory and I/O extraneous "stuff" can consume. Think about offering service catalogs full of pre-configured virtual desktops that people can request and use for specific purposes. Imagine a graphics design workstation offering with all the trimmings, or an engineering workstation designed by the finest engineers in your organization. These kinds of ideas will create value that really leverages what these technologies can offer your business, and people will go where they see value for them.

What do you think? What are some great ways to strike a better balance between information security and usability? How can we offer people freedom of choice in personal computing without spending more on management and support? If you are doing this today, what tools are indispensible to you?

David Johnson is Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, where he serves Infrastructure & Operations Professionals, primarily focusing on client management, client operating systems and hardware, client virtualization, and related IT operations areas. For more posts by David, and other Forrester analysts, please visit: http://blogs.forrester.com/information_technology

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