Daniel Robinson - V3.co.uk - 11th October 2013
The frenzy over the ‘bring your own device' (BYOD) trend in the workplace seems to have abated somewhat lately. I'm not sure whether this is because everyone is now bored of hearing about it, or that people have finally realised that using a device like an iPad for any serious work is about as realistic a scenario as using a motorcycle to tow a caravan.
Yes, we've been told for several years now that PCs are dead and that everyone is going to be using tablets or some other device as their preferred business client instead. This has been rammed home by regular reports from market research firms showing that sales of PCs are declining, reports that typically neglect to mention that their figures cover both consumer and business sales.
However, whenever I attend an event such as a trade conference or a major launch, I look around at the gathered attendees and I see people almost entirely kitted out with Windows laptops or one of Apple's lightweight MacBook Air systems. Occasionally, you do see someone taking notes using an iPad and one of those keyboard folio accessories, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
What did occur to me recently is to wonder how many of those laptops are actually owned by the person using them, or by their employer? This, after all, is one of the other premises of BYOD - that users want to be able to bring in their own computer to use in the workplace rather than whatever is foisted upon them by the IT department.
The reason why you might want to use your own computer has also been attributed to personal vanity - not wanting to be seen with an ugly lump of a laptop, for example - but explanations like this have always seemed vaguely unsatisfactory, as if every worker in the world is some crazed Paris Hilton obsessed with the fashion statement their possessions make about them.
But perhaps there is a more pragmatic reason why users might want to dump their company-approved computer. Here at V3 towers, for example, we were upgraded to shiny new corporate laptops about 18 months ago. At first, the step up in performance was most gratifying, but soon everyone on the team began to perceive that their system was getting slower and slower.
The reasons for this are manifold, but it can't be a coincidence that the number of installed management and security tools seems to have increased over time. Often, my own computer seems to spend more of its time updating malware definition files and performing an inventory scan than it does actually running the productivity applications that I need to get my job done.
Then there is the endless stream of updates for both Windows and the installed applications that mean your computer is constantly applying patches and updates. Is it just me, or have developers become lazy and don't bother to properly test software anymore, because they know they can simply push out an update for any bugs that crop up?
If you don't have local admin rights, there is nothing you can do to postpone many of these updates, which often seem to pop up just at the worst moment, as you are struggling to meet a deadline or need to power down your system to head for the airport, for example.
For some of my colleagues, things became so intolerable that they have ditched their Windows laptop in favour of a Mac. These do not seem to be burdened with the same volume of intrusive management tools as PCs, especially if the Mac in question is owned by the user and not the company.
So here we have what could be the real driver for BYOD: that rampant corporate management and security tools are impacting performance and hampering endpoint systems so much that users are turning to non-approved devices out of sheer frustration.
Sadly for these users, corporate recognition and acceptance of BYOD means that in future, you may find that access to company resources is increasingly blocked unless you allow the appropriate management and security tools to deploy themselves onto your device first.
In other words, BYOD may turn out to be a short-lived trend, as workers find that the reason they opted to use a non-company device for work in the first place has now been rendered invalid.