BYOD, industry-speak for the ability of consumers to bring their personal devices into the office to do their jobs, is not as far along as the industry buzz would make you think, according to the talk at a Silicon Valley conference.
The bring your own device (BYOD) trend was much discussed at the Directions 2013 conference Tuesday at the Santa Clara Convention Center that was hosted by IDC, the research firm whose quarterly reports on sales of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets I often report on here as the San Jose Gadgets Examiner.
It used to be that when you started at a company, you were issued a PC -- either a laptop or desktop -- and a cell phone, usually a BlackBerry, and told to get to work.
These days, spurred largely by the instant popularity of the Apple iPhone introduced in 2007, and the iPad in 2010, employees started to bring their own devices into work and wanted to be able to access the corporate network on them. Usually if they were a C-level executive, their wish was granted by IT.
While there’s a lot of buzz about BYOD with device makers and companies offering IT products and services to businesses, enterprises aren’t fully embracing BYOD just yet, said Linn Huang, a senior research analyst at IDC in research about client devices and displays.
“I would say ‘embracing’ is a strong word. The word that I would use is ‘exploring,’” Huang said in an interview with me.
IDC does annual surveys of companies about their use of personal computers in the workplace and he says that while workers are bringing their own tablet computers into the office, it’s still largely a PC-centric environment. And while BYOD is surely catching on, IT departments are still grappling with issues of integrating personal devices into the IT infrastructure as well as the security of those personal devices and ownership of the data on them.
Work data that someone stores on their personal device is proprietary to the company and can be very sensitive, as it could contain trade secrets. In other cases, data could be covered by state or federal laws mandating that it be secured, he said. Meanwhile, workers using their own smartphones to make business calls raises the question about how much of the monthly bill the company should pay and the user pay.
“Those are complicated matters and I think that’s why we’re in the exploration phase rather than the mass adoption phase,” Huang said.
Moreover, tablets are not necessarily a replacement for company provided PCs. I have found this out personally because there are some tasks that I can’t perform on my tablet and need my laptop to accomplish.
“We have spoken to a number of enterprises that are definitely pushing tablets into their organizations, but … most of them aren’t really hard PC replacements,” he said.
Nonetheless, the BYOD trend is here to stay, said Bob O’Donnell, program vice president of clients and displays research at IDC. (“Clients” is a tech industry term for devices people use to connect to a server or network, be it a smartphone, tablet or PC. “Display” refers to various screens people view to interact with a device, like a PC monitor or tablet screen.)
“I would say that we are seeing businesses being transformed and we (workers) are being transformed,” said O’Donnell, who adds that the transition, including to BYOD, is driven particularly by the increased use of mobile devices, whether provided by the employer or the employee.
While the BYOD transition is only in the preliminary stages, as analyst Huang argues, the transition is happening, says O’Donnell, and companies have to adapt to it by deciding how to integrate devices into the network, what applications workers can or should use, and how those mobile devices will be secured and managed.
“The line that divides work from personal is gone,” he told his audience at the conference. “We believe that companies that can adopt and create solutions that are relevant to individuals are going to succeed.”