Learning to consume

The enterprise has seen the light, and it's coming from a consumer device

We tried. We really tried. We had every intention of sticking to our knitting — reporting on a slate of enterprise computing topics, from blade servers to SOA deployment strategies.

But in a week when Steve Jobs rolled out the iPhone and a raft of Consumer Electronics Show product intros set our collective geek beanies a-spinning, we had no choice: This week, InfoWorld is embracing its consumer side.

Then again, maybe this consumer thing isn’t all that much of a stretch for us, given the similarity between end-users and enterprise users. Both have glommed on to the latest mobile devices and apps; both are moving toward high-speed delivery of data, from e-mail to video, through a single IP pipe; and both need major processing oomph for state-of-the-art apps.

Sadly for the enterprise, though, innovation has flowed primarily from the consumer side. Multiplayer games, slick cell phones, TiVo, the iPod, MySpace, YouTube, and other killer apps have redefined the state of technology.

I do, however, detect signs of life from the enterprise as it adapts consumer tech to its own ends. Some companies are tapping into social networks, rolling out wikis for Web 2.0-style collaboration, and experimenting with virtual worlds like SecondLife. Others are embracing streaming video, while continuing to seek the perfect all-in-one handheld device. And as the public Internet has become the de facto corporate network, the chasm between the boardroom and the family room has narrowed.

Yes, the enterprise is boarding the consumer train. Now all that’s left is to convince my boss that I need an iPhone. After all, I have work to do.