Act now to avoid the Apple tablet apocalypse

We saw the damage the iPhone caused as the ill-fitting consumer technology invaded the corporate space. This time, IT needs to strike first

I hate disruptive technologies. They're antithetical to all that's sane and stable in enterprise IT. So when I hear that one out of every five tech-savvy consumers is interested in buying the as-yet-unannounced Apple tablet device, I start to squirm a bit in my chair.

Assuming a third-quarter ship date, this fruity new wonder could prove to be the hottest item under the Christmas tree. And that means that, come January 2011, IT shops will be inundated with idiot users lobbying to hook their iPads/iSlates/iTablets (iBricks?) into the corporate network.

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It's an old story, one that traces its roots to the earliest days of the personal computing revolution. Back then, the more nefarious users would sneak their shiny new PCs into the workplace, prompting a near riot as colleagues and other departments clamored for equal consideration. Suddenly, guerrilla PC cells were popping up all over the place, forcing IT to waste literally millions of man-hours whipping these poorly thought-out devices into a semimanageable state.

I can see a similar tidal wave on the horizon with an Apple tablet. At first, users will sneak them into the office as companion devices. Before long, they'll insist that IT support them directly by providing expensive docking cradles and proprietary keyboard/mice combinations -- all so that they can ditch their carefully tested, enterprise-ready, company-provided desktop or laptop in favor of their shiny new toy.

All hell will break loose. First, IT will discover that these first-generation devices are buggy. Users will demand fixes to problems that shouldn't exist, like poor Exchange Server integration or inconsistent VPN support. Then, as the buzz surrounding the new device fades, these now-overwhelmed IT shops will be faced with the task of picking up the pieces from the more important projects (server patching, infrastructure upgrades) they'd shelved to meet the relentless tide of tablet mania requests. It'll be a real mess.

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