Foley on Microsoft

Microsoft and the 'Consumerization of IT'

Microsoft was one of the first tech vendors to truly jump on the 'CoIT' bandwagon, on that says consumer-focused technologies are where the action is. Here's what to expect next from Redmond.

Microsoft was one of the first tech vendors to truly jump on the "Consumerization of IT" bandwagon. And the 'Softies haven't looked back since.

The Consumerization of IT meme is a rather loosely defined one. It reflects a point made years back by former Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie: Consumer-focused technologies, not enterprise ones, are where the action is. The belief in this idea has influenced everything from Microsoft's marketing campaigns to its R&D priorities since 2005 or so.

When Microsoft execs first began to really push the Consumerization of IT -- or CofIT, as I'll call it from here on -- concept, they focused heavily on the idea that users were bringing their own PCs to work because their own machines were so much more capable than their work PCs. If users liked their Windows Vista (and later, Windows 7) PCs, they'd encourage their bosses to buy them for their businesses. At the very least, the argument went, users would try to get the bosses to let them use their home rigs at work.

Then the 'Softies began citing users bringing their Windows Phones to work -- and their use of them for both consumer and business purposes -- as another CofIT proof point. It wasn't a huge leap for the 'Softies to start talking about ideas that once sounded completely crazy -- such as bringing an Xbox to work. And at this year's Microsoft Management Summit, Microsoft added a new chapter to its CofIT playbook. Company officials introduced the possibility of bringing non-Microsoft devices, such as Android phones, iPhones and even iPads, to work. Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012 would provide all the magic necessary to tame these once-heretical devices.

Microsoft proposes three CofIT stages:

  • Influence. If you get a Windows 7 PC inside the corporate walls, suddenly all the cool kids will want one.
  • Integration. If you bring a Windows Phone or an Xbox to work, IT ultimately will integrate and support these devices.
  • Incorporation. If you can't beat the iPhones, iPads and Android gadgets out there, at least you can merge them into your corporate network and manage and secure them.

So, what's the next logical step for the 'Softies in their CofIT journey? Immersion, I'd argue.

Microsoft is no longer trying to reinvent the wheel -- at least when the wheel is big and has some serious momentum. Example: Outlook 2010. Microsoft included a Social Connector capability that allows you to see "activity feeds" and personal information about your contacts. Instead of trying to reinvent LinkedIn or Facebook, Microsoft partnered with these companies to provide its own users with a more "immersive" experience.

Microsoft's unified communications product, Lync Server 2010, already allows users to bring their Windows Live buddies into their contact lists. And Microsoft has promised that Lync will be getting a "Video Kinect" capability, enabling your animated avatar to meet with your colleagues' avatars even when you're at home.

I'm expecting Office 15 and SharePoint 15 to go further and immerse both consumer and business users in more socially networked views. And I wouldn't be surprised to see other Microsoft business products, including Dynamics ERP and Dynamics CRM, immersing users in more consumerized scenarios, as well.

Unlike Microsoft management, I haven't been a big believer in the CofIT doctrine. But I have to say, it looks as though CofIT is going to get more and more play in Redmond and will remain a centerpiece of the company's thinking and strategy going forward.

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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