This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

I’m not saying that Microsoft can’t lead us through the transition to the consumerized enterprise, but history isn’t on their side.

Last week I was fortunate enough to speak at the Microsoft Tech Ed Conference in Atlanta. Much of my presentation focused on the need to develop cross platform skills since the virtual monopoly that Microsoft had on the corporate desktop is rapidly coming to an end for a number of reasons (I won’t go into those reasons now). I represent some evidence of that as well, albeit a small sample size. After being a Microsoft user for years I now carry a MacBook and iPad. I’ll admit that I felt like a bit of an alien being at the Microsoft event with Apple products, but it is a sign of the times. I understand that a sample size of myself isn’t statically relevant, but just go into any airport, Internet cafe or board room. There are more non Microsoft devices than ever before. After my presentation I had a chance to talk to many of the attendees and I was surprised–maybe I shouldn’t have been–at the strong resistance from the Microsoft community in embracing the consumerization and multi operating system trends. IT can fight it all they want, but I firmly believe the trend is here to stay and IT, particularly the hard core Microsoft IT pro community, needs to learn to deal with it.

From my conversations with the attendees, it’s obvious the trend scares them. Much of the Microsoft value proposition to the IT professional community is end to end control, desk top to data center, that the software architecture provides. This is the way we always did things because IT control was more important than user experience.

Fast-forward to today and user experience definitely trumps IT control. I’m not saying that IT needs to give up control, but the control points need to shift from the Microsoft controlled endpoint into the network, cloud or other parts of the infrastructure.

The control points need to move for a couple reasons. First, there are more and more non-Windows devices making their way into the workplace, so that’s one issue. The second one is that any given user can have 5 or more devices, all with different operating systems. So even if IT could keep up with multiple OS’s, having to keep that tight control over all of a user’s devices at the same time is nearly impossible. Again, embracing this change will yield better results and a better career path for the IT pros today.

To strengthen my point, I referenced myself when I was early in my career. I was part of a team of people hired by a large financial services organization to get the company off of an IBM 3270 mainframe and onto a combination of Windows 3.1 and Unix end points. The majority of workers used Windows, and some high-end niche applications ran better on Unix than Windows (that’s a shock!). The IBM mainframes were run by a group of hard-core IBM guys, and I still remember their dedicated, unwavering commitment to IBM. In fact, even after they embraced the PC era, they pushed strongly for the company to use OS/2 on IBM Micro-Channel machines. Not sure how many of you reading this are familiar with OS/2 or Micro-Channel, but the technology did have some advantages over the ISA cards used in PCs back then, and OS/2 did have some advantages over Windows. However, IBM was slow to adopt applications and peripherals, and the rest of the industry was moving away from that technology.

The point of my story here is that rarely do incumbent vendors lead us through a transition. That happened with Token Ring to Ethernet, mainframe to PC computing, circuit switching voice to voice over IP, and a number of other markets. The IBM loyalists stood by the vendor that had carried them through their career and ultimately caused them to be dinosaurs faster than they needed to be. So, for all you Microsoft professionals, I’m not saying that Microsoft can’t lead us through the transition to the consumerized enterprise, but history isn’t on their side. From my dealings with Microsoft, they seem to be more accepting of this trend now, but they are late to the game compared to some of the other companies.

So, for your own protection, broaden your horizon and accept the fact that non corporate names like Apple, Google and others indeed do have a place in the workforce. In fact, don’t just accept it, embrace it and lead it. That will prevent you from becoming a dinosaur. Many of you were on the right side of the previous computing transition; don’t get caught on the wrong side this time.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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