Consumer Tech Points the Way

Opinion: Consumers with more capable applications are in the driver's seat, but businesses can build their own models to gain an edge.

Attendees at gartners Symposium/ITxpo Oct. 8-13 in Orlando, Fla., probably didnt need any added emphasis that consumer technology has been outpacing business tech, but they got a $1.65 billion reminder anyway.

That reminder was the $1.65 billion acquisition of video site YouTube by everyones favorite search site, Google.

The acquisition came on the same day that the Gartner analysts led off the weeklong event at Walt Disney World by telling the IT professionals in attendance that consumers with more storage, faster processors and more capable applications are taking the drivers seat away from the business technology managers.

Unless those managers start to understand and use consumer technology techniques such as social networks, robust search, podcasts and video, they risk being left in the fading glow of green-screen, command-line applications.

Add to this the admonition from the analysts claiming that eight out of 10 IT budget dollars are "dead dollars" wasted on merely keeping a creaking technology infrastructure running rather than being invested in new and revenue-producing projects.

But are consumer technology sites really that far ahead of business technology? While I dont question that $1.65 billion seems a very good price to be had for a mix of amateur videos and other peoples videos, whose copyright protection seems to be largely ignored, Im not sure that consumer sites are really the models that business tech should emulate.

Consumer technology always has pushed the business process along. PCs, probably the most fundamental computer technology agent of change in the last 25 years, was born in the consumer market.

You could argue that business has spent the last 25 years trying to bring structure, security and integration into products that never really were meant to be part of the business landscape.

What would be the reaction of your boss if you went in advocating that all the employees in your company should be running video blogs while socially networking during the workday? Id guess the reaction would be, at its mildest, unfavorable.

After all, the business of business is business, and Web surfing, e-mailing and looking up the value of your house on doesnt really add much to your companys bottom line.

What the consumer sites have shown and what is important for business technology is that, by using technology wisely, you can build robust, flexible and secure systems that can quickly scale up to worldwide levels.

Rather than continually trying to integrate and repair what you have, there is a good argument that while one group is keeping the current system running, a second group should be building the next generation of a companys IT network.

The applications running on those networks probably will look nothing like the applications running on the consumer networks of today.

/zimages/5/28571.gifGartner warns to cut infrastructure costs. Click here to read more.

Instead of a MySpace or Facebook network widely available to all, the business technology developer will be creating employee profiles that are secure and sufficiently detailed to make sure a company can bring its most-experienced and best employees to the corporate tasks at hand.

Instead of a YouTube that makes video widely available, the corporate technology strategist will be developing long supply chain systems that can track a product from its raw components to the consumer purchasing those products.

Instead of music downloads on a smart phone, the business user will be tapping into CRM (customer relationship management), inventory and security systems to get a real-time gauge of the companys financial health.

The tasks facing business technology are, indeed, formidable, which was pointed out by Gartner analysts at the symposium, but the technologies to help in surmounting those tasks are fast-changing and built around standards, inexpensive hardware and applications that can be combined easily to create new "mashed up" business applications.

While business has something to learn from consumer technology, it will be the businesses that take that understanding in a new and business-oriented direction that will succeed.

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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