The realist's guide to BYOD and why it's a long-term trend

BYOD will continue to be a successful IT trend because there's nothing standing in its way

You don't have to be a reader of tea leaves to know the long-term viability of today's hottest technology trends. You just need a reliable model that accurately reflects the key factors in determining its success.

Bubble or trend, a lot has been said about BYOD that might lead you to believe you need a crystal ball to know whether this sourcing strategy is here to stay. But as we found last week in our discussion of various flavors of cloud computing, all it takes is a practical understanding of three key questions around the adoption of BYOD to know where to place your bets.

[ For iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS, and Windows Phone: Learn how to manage mobile devices in InfoWorld's 20-page BYOD and Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today. | For more of Bob Lewis' continuing IT management wisdom, check out his Advice Line newsletter. ]

Assessing the long-term viability of the latest technology trends

As I laid out in last week's Advice Line on cloud services, to predict the success of a new technology, you only need to assess three variables:

  • Are the customer and consumer different people? (Reminder: Customers make buying decisions about a product or service, in contrast to consumers, who are the people who use it.)
  • Will the "wallet" (the source of money) find the expenditure off-putting?
  • Will the technology be disruptive when mixed together with the installed base?

If the answer to all three of these questions is no, the new technology has a chance.

I stumbled on this formula many years ago (circa 1990), when I was managing my company's PCs. A sales rep from NeXT Computer gave the CIO and me his sales pitch, asking us what it would take to place some of his systems in front of our top executives.

"When they can log on to our Novell servers, and read and write WordPerfect documents and Lotus spreadsheets, we might have a use for them," I told him. "But even then, at more than twice the cost of what we spend on PCs right now, it would be an uphill battle."

"Steve Jobs' philosophy," he told us, "is that you can't start a revolution without breaking some eggs." I told him we weren't in the revolution business, while trying to get the uncomfortable image out of my head of Karl Marx as a short-order cook, making an omelette, and we went our separate ways.

When I thought about the interchange later, it occurred to me: I was the customer, even though I wouldn't be one of the machine's users; it cost way too much -- at the time the company was skittish about buying plain-old MS-DOS machines; and nothing about NeXT computers was compatible with what we had.

I've since applied the formula to a variety of new technologies, from OS/2 to desktop Linux to server-side Linux to Larry Ellison's late and unlamented network computer, up to and including the cloud (as described last week). The formula seems to work quite well.

So let's apply it to another hot industry trend -- BYOD -- and see what develops. A caveat: BYOD is more of a sourcing tactic than a technology, so the formula might not fit the situation perfectly.

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