The good news about the multiday period of time that was formerly known as Black Friday is that you don't need to worry much about how it will affect your IT department. After all, you buy your hardware on corporate contracts, and over the long run your pricing is almost certainly better than what retailers are offering for Black Thursday, Friday or (fill in your favorite duration here).
Except, of course, when you do have to worry. This year wireless carriers have joined the massive effort to move as much inventory as possible during the prime shopping period between mid-November and Dec. 31. Much of this is driven by Christmas shopping, but not all of it—after all, plenty of people buy things for themselves, especially at those great after-Christmas sales. As a result, the companies that sell smartphones and tablets are pulling out the stops.
Apple and Microsoft are having sales on their top products. Apple, for example, offered $75 gift cards to people buying an iPhone 5S. Microsoft was having significant discounts on Windows Phones, tablets and Windows computers at their stores. The carriers are doing the same thing, but in other ways. T-Mobile and AT&T, for example, have dropped their down payments on iPhones to zero dollars (depending on the plan). T-Mobile has reduced down payments on virtually every other phone to zero dollars.
And you thought Apple phones are never discounted, right? Now they are, and not because the iPhone is a slow seller, because it's not. In fact, analyst reports indicate that the iPhone 5S is outselling the iPhone 5 of a year ago. The reasons for all of this activity are rooted in some complex economic issues, but to boil it down, it helps to realize that there are fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than usual and the smartphone market in the U.S. is starting to show signs of saturation. This in turn means that getting a market share edge is as important as selling lots of smartphones.
This affects your IT department in a couple of ways that could be important depending on your company smartphone policies. It may mean, for example, that the mix of smartphones used by your employees may change. It may also mean there will be new smartphone operating systems that you'll have to make sure work with your enterprise. And it will likely mean that employees who already have smartphones are now going to show up with tablets as well.
Microsoft's relentless push to spread the sales of its Windows Phone 8 devices as well as its Windows 8.1 tablets is having an effect. While the Surface RT still isn't setting the world on fire, tablets with Windows 8.1 Professional are starting to sell into markets where people need to create content instead of simply consume it.