The BYOD era may be ending already

In 2010, the bring-your-own-device notion was derided; in 2012, it became normal; in 2014, it may be seen as an odd exception

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Granted, your mileage may vary, but Asmundson says that as the iPad continues to gain in capabilities and when Windows 8-based tablets arrive later this year, ever more people will be able to leave a computer on their desk for that occasional "workstation" use and rely on a tablet the rest of the time.

Tablets are amazingly light and portable. Two of them weigh less and take less space than most laptops. In other words, carrying a personal unit and another one for work is not a burden, which means they can again become separate devices and avoid the messiness of a personal device acting as a business device (and vice versa). The same is true of smartphones, and Asmundson points out that many companies still issue corporate devices that have deep network access even if they let employees use personal devices for limited business purposes. Carrying two smartphones is not a big burden either, he says.

BYOD is a proxy for a bigger set of issues that won't go away
Let's be clear: Personal/business duality is the real issue for IT, as they must rely on users to be smart about malware prevention and corporate data loss, and that creates an unknown level of risk. Now that iOS and to some extent Android can satisfy legitimate business security and information management needs, businesses can give employees some choice in their mobile computing platforms; there's no longer the iPhone/BlackBerry gap issue to justify BYOD.

Regular readers know I believe users should be trusted more than IT usually does. As a corollary, users and their business units need to take on accountability for their actions -- after all, if IT takes over, that frees users to be both smart and stupid. But my conversations with Asmundson over the last year tell me his belief in the separation of business and personal devices isn't about returning to the past; he's as happy to help businesses succeed with BYOD and CYOD as he is to help IT organizations implement highly controlled, highly secure environments, if that's what they need.

I agree with Asmundson's logic, but I believe there's another option on the table: Although we're still in early days, there's a panoply of application and information management technologies coming that create the business/personal separation IT rightfully wants, allowing a single endpoint to be two or more virtual devices. The desktop and application virtualization approaches that are emerging for personal computers may come to some mobile platforms. Even if they don't, there are other separation technologies that do the same for mobile. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

I believe we'll see a continuum of choices, based on a variety of factors at each company: actual security and management needs, compliance burden to demonstrate adherence to them, corporate culture, and degree of mobile and nonheadquarters employees. Asmundson's approach would work well in companies such as Deloitte that have conservative IT requirements due to the confidentiality and compliance issues involved. The multiple-personality approach emerging would work better in companies that have less compliance overhead and benefit in terms of flexibility and productivity by letting employees work from anywhere on anything. We'll still have edge cases such as the National Security Agency that must have a tightly controlled environment, as well as smaller businesses that simply lack the knowledge or resources to do more than implement basic Exchange ActiveSync policies and trust their employees.

Will BYOD turn out to be a weird phase two years from now? Maybe. I believe that the "IT knows best" mentality will certainly be seen as anachronistic by then for user-facing technologies. And the BYOD and CYOD will have matured such that the issue is not who owns the device but whether it does the job in a way that satisfies everyone. We'll all have multiple devices, no matter who owns them. That's fundamental to the consumerization of IT. BYOD is simply an expression of that trend, not the trend itself.

This article, "The BYOD era may be ending already," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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