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.
Black Friday Deals Bring Onslaught of New Devices to IT Departments
Meanwhile, with some significant new offerings from Nokia, Windows Phone 8 is starting to gain market share. Phones such as the Nokia Lumia 1020 with its very high-resolution camera and the Nokia Lumia 1520 with a camera that’s almost as good and a screen that’s as large as any phone continue to draw customers away from other makers.
BlackBerry, meanwhile, continues to bleed customers, and that in turn has significant security effects on your wireless infrastructure.
Taken together, this means that starting in early December you’re going to be faced with a long list of employees who either want to bring a new smartphone into your enterprise for the first time or, more likely, want to change the phone they currently have. As the mix of phones changes, you may find yourself having to change the licenses on your mobile management hardware and software, and of course you’ll have to make sure your support desk is staffed appropriately.
You’ll also have to add new security measures. It’s enough that your company email appears on everybody’s smartphone already. Now that more of your employees are buying tablets, you can expect to see more sensitive documents appearing on employee-owned wireless devices. You’ll need to make sure that those new devices are protected and that you have the ability to wipe them remotely, and you’ll have to be able to monitor multiple devices per employee.
The growing complexity of your wireless landscape means that your IT costs will go up, even if you haven’t added any new people, because you’re going to have to manage more devices for the people you already have. The one piece of good news is that your company won’t have to buy all of those devices, although you already know that it would be cheaper in the long run for your company to own the device for ease of management.
And perhaps I shouldn’t mention all of those other devices that will start showing up in the office to connect with your network—everything from new routers to Xboxes. Just keep telling yourself that this is the hap-hap-happiest time of the year.