Mobile deviceWhile everyone was out buying tablets and e-book readers over the holidays, I happened to dig up “The Coming Age of Calm Technology,” by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown.

Weiser and Brown wrote it while they were at Xerox PARC in the ‘90s, outlining some very broad predictions. Some of the details verge into speculative fiction, but their main story is still pretty useful for understanding a key shift.

Their idea was that the history of computing has three phases. The first was mainframes: “many people share one computer.” The second was personal computing: “one computer, one person.” The final phase is ubiquitous computing: “many computers share each of us.”

Last month the GSMA released a report estimating about 9 billion connected devices now worldwide (for a population of around 7 billion) and that number is growing fast (just think of all the ultrabooks and smart TVs showcased at CES last month), and they’re all sharing pieces of people’s data.

We’re not just increasing the number of devices, but changing our relationship with them. We don’t have enough attention to manage every individual end point, either as end users or IT managers.

Our tools are going to become more seamlessly and dynamically interconnected – more like ecosystems than traditional, rigidly controlled IT systems.

This is where cloud applications come in.

Because there’s not much value in using multiple devices if they don’t have the applications and data we need, whenever and wherever we are. This is the problem that led Drew Houston to create Dropbox. Houston brought his laptop on a four-hour bus ride, but the work he wanted to do was back home on a USB drive.

Today services like Dropbox give people access to their work anywhere, any time, on any device, and users love it. (52% of our survey respondents said Dropbox is used in their organizations. Only 12% of IT departments are supporting it.)

Unfortunately, incumbent enterprise vendors haven’t exactly been blazing the trail. The gap is being filled by startups like Box, born out of a need to solve people’s needs – appealing directly to end users – but driven to infiltrate the enterprise (and trash-talk traditional IT vendors).

IT has to be more proactive in all this. These fast-growing ecosystems need knowledgeable, flexible mediators. We need to keep finding new ways to balance security and governance with the fact that end users will use the tools they like to suit their own needs.

For more information, read Info-Tech’s solution set, Integrating Consumer Applications into IT.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInTweet about this on Twitter

Comments are closed.