In the early days of computing, the IT (information technology) world used to be wonderful. There was typically just one computer in the organization to worry about - a mainframe or a mini. The computer was locked in a secure data center and all users used the same hardware and software. This centralized IT environment was relatively easy to manage, control, and secure. IT was in charge and the users couldn’t do anything but work with their applications. Life was beautiful.
But then came Intel and Microsoft and put a computer on every desk and ever since Novell has connected them together, the IT world became a nightmare. (We called it IS back then but I digress). Every user had a different PC and everyone used different software. And what was even worse, the users could tamper with it. They were able to install new applications, add additional hardware such as cameras or external drives, and compromise security by taking the data home, contracting viruses and committing other sins. The IT environments became extremely difficult to manage and impossible to secure.
Then decades later, IT was finally regaining control. After years of desktop dominance, Microsoft was establishing a position where they could control the entire environment: the desktop OS, the desktop apps, the network OS, the database, the Office infrastructure, the server based apps, and even the systems management tools to automatically configure the desktops and prevent users from tampering with them. IT was just inches away from the goal line – Microsoft’s promise of the beautiful life was very tempting.
But Microsoft got distracted - first by AOL and Yahoo!, then by Nintendo and Sony, then by Google, and now by Apple, and Facebook. The results are quite evident – Microsoft is losing its monopoly on the desktop. In my professional life, I have never seen so many iMacs, iPads, iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerrys that people around me use to do their job. These are desktops, tablets and mobile devices that use no Microsoft software at all.
Many people buy these devices on their own, regardless of what the company’s IT standard is. They simply help each other get them integrated with the corporate systems and circumvent IT altogether. And IT is on the defensive again as they have to do what they users want. The Microsoft monopoly and its promise of a homogeneous environment is fading and the good old days of mainframe are not coming back.
The old IT mantra that ”nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft” is shaking. The users are taking over. They are rebelling against Windows, Exchange, and PowerPoint. What they want is iMac, iPad, iPhone and Android and the two hundred thousand applications these systems offer. The time of homogeneous environments is over. Long live the freedom of choice!