Ford, BlackBerry, iPhone, Apple, and IBM: Calling BYOD into Question

Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Ford Motor Co. was ditching all its BlackBerry phones and migrating all of those users to iPhones.

This sentence in the report really stood out:

Having all employees on the same smartphone will improve security and simplify information technology management, Tatchio said.

That’s a pretty important and wide-ranging statement.

First of all, the improved security. For all the banter about how secure BlackBerrys are, Ford seems to think iOS devices have better security. With the iPhone home button’s Touch ID and the new iOS 8 APIs for authenticating users through new Touch ID APIs, iPhones are not only secure, but they make security easy for users. No passwords on sticky notes anymore.

With custom enterprise apps, companies like Ford can create iOS apps that simply use the device user’s fingerprint to authenticate who they are (and use things like GPS to validate their location).

But that’s just the beginning.

The second part of the statement was about simplifying technology management. For all the talk about how BYOD is going to save enterprises money, having a single device–or a single family of devices, like iPhones and iPads–has got to save money in the long run.

With BYOD, corporate IT departments have new burdens:

  1. Supporting devices from different platforms (iOS and Android).
  2. Using an MDM/MAM system for securing personal devices in a corporate environment.
  3. Managing user upgrades.
  4. Supporting devices with wildly different specs, from the lowliest free Android phone with paltry RAM, an old OS version, and insipid graphics, to the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5, which can do almost anything.
  5. Finding or writing apps that work on all phones on both platforms.

Are you going to limit the software your power users can use, just so that it runs on the lowliest of devices?

Are you going to write 2 different versions of every app, one for Android and one for iOS, for all your internal business needs? Or are you going to use a hybrid development tool that adds yet another layer of complexity on top of an already complex system?

BYOD was the darling of the enterprise IT set a few years ago. But as the realities sink in, more companies are going to be like Ford and just bite the bullet and go with a known, reliable, secure, frequently updated, robust solution.

Just as enterprises standardized on Windows 20 years ago with Windows 95, enterprises will soon realize that the benefit of a single platform will cut costs (compared to BYOD) for security, custom app development, deployment, and maintenance. And with Apple’s recently announced collaboration with IBM, the phrase “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” will come back into vogue–with an accent on the Apple platform.

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