“Consumerization of IT” is deja vu all over again

Was in a discussion today about the “consumerization of IT”, by which people mean the trend to have consumer technology products and approaches become the leading edge for innovation in the enterprise.

The tenor of the conversation was that this was a historic shift, and that enterprise IT had formerly led innovation in consumer IT.

I found myself objecting.  It’s not that consumer IT has never led; it just hasn’t led lately.

In the ’80’s, a new machine called the PC (and even Macs were called PCs then) invaded the enterprise.  Its owners valued the pleasure of running software on a PC, the interactivity, the fun of using PC software.

Enterprise software, which was mostly time-sharing — so-called “green screen” apps — was ugly, cumbersome, and hard to learn how to use.  There was nothing fun about it.

PC software — and it was the “consumer” software of its day — led enterprise IT, and enterprises were dragged kicking and screaming into supporting it.

Throughout what you might call the “LAN-based PC” era, consumer IT led.  And then a different wind blew — mainly databases and database-based applications — and the client-server era began.  What led then was the ability to run large datasets in something less than geologic time.  Enterprise IT led, and led until… new clients came along that were a pleasure and fun to use, and users insisted that the enterprise support them.

Maybe it’s a cycle, and not a series of epochs.

Your thoughts?

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