When I got into technology journalism, the Big Deal product review was the norm and Apple was on the ropes, having lost all of its leadership position in computing technology to Microsoft. My, how the times have changed; Apple is now the second-largest company in the world in terms of market capitalization, and rather than time-intensive Big Deal reviews, I’m gearing up to produce a whole lot of little reviews; if I can do a dozen of them in the next month, I might get a set of steak knives, to borrow a line from Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross.
I love it when I get stats to back up my prejudices, and writing in the Media Decoder blog of today’s New York Times, Brian Stelter provides them, in his discussion of a new report from the Pew Research Center that indicates Apple’s share of press coverage to be about 15 percent, or roughly five times that of Microsoft.
I’m guilty of contributing to the slush and I’d rather not think about how many of the blogs, columns and reviews that I’ve written in the last six months use Apple as a hook. After all, there are other companies doing interesting things that are equally worthy of coverage. (At least, I assume that’s the case.)
But to justify my paycheck, I have to pull in a certain number of eyeballs every month in the form of page views and the sure-fire way to do that is to write about Apple. Some people might call that pandering to the fanboys, but I prefer to think of it as giving the people what they want to read about. Let’s face it: the market for high-end logging appliances or cloud-based single sign-on tools is nowhere near the market for the iPad or iPhone. These days, eyeballs are eyeballs, no matter what the size of their IT budgets.
Last week, I was down at Cisco’s campus in San Jose, where a project manager referred to the increasing use in business of smartphones and similar tools as the “consumerization of enterprise IT.” That’s a catchy phrase, but it might be more accurate to think of it as the “enterprisification” of consumer technology. Or if you want to dredge up a buzzword that I thought was buried for good, it’s about “convergence” - in this case, a convergence of consumer and enterprise technology.
It wasn’t that long ago that you could still draw a line between consumer tech and enterprise gear and in some areas, that distinction’s still pretty clear. For example, although I have a few terabytes of storage floating around in my flat, I don’t use RAID, I don’t have any arrays, and I don’t use Fibre Channel to connect to them. Likewise, I think it’s going to be a while before we start to see unmanaged 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches on sale at Best Buy.
But the difference between an enterprise notebook computer and a consumer notebook is more in the software than the hardware; smartphones are following a similar path. Although Microsoft still maintains a distinction between the consumer and enterprise versions of Windows 7, I’ve never seen the point to that decision. It was one thing to offer home and professional versions of the OS; but “Ultimate”? Really?
The difference between consumer technology and enterprise IT is in the applications, rather than the hardware or the OS. That’s where the rubber really meets the road; and for my coverage to stay relevant, I have no choice but to adapt to the new reality. It’s a shame, in many ways, because I really enjoyed doing “big iron” reviews, and I have a knack for explaining complicated topics in a way that makes them accessible to a wider community.
But I don't really have time to cry about “what could have been.” Instead, I’m going to look at this change in priorities as an opportunity to see what mobility can do for enterprise IT and its practitioners. Am I going to pay a lot of attention to what Apple’s doing? Of course I am; but more importantly, I’m going to pay even more attention to the tools that people are developing that happen to run on Apple’s mobile platforms.