What the iPhone, Xbox and Las Vegas Can Teach You About Corporate Computing

Opinion: Must-have consumer electronics gadgets hold lessons for enterprise IT execs.

Sometimes it seems like a stretch to connect the business-to-business world of corporate computing to the high-buzz-factor world of consumer electronics. At other times, like right now, it is amazing how much a corporate IT exec can learn from watching the high-tech hijinks in other spheres.

Take the iPhone, please. There are not too many immutable laws of corporate computing, but "never buy version 1 of anything" is one law many scarred corporate tech execs have etched into stone. Buying version 1 transforms you from being a customer to an extension of a vendors marketing and research and development departments. This is happening now with Apples iPhone.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of the iPhone.

People who have no collective memory of the Lisa, Newton and Pippin are lined up and signed up for the iPhone. I like the iPhone. I think it is groundbreaking. I think that in the next version you will be able to replace the battery instead of sending the whole unit back to Apple. I think in the next version Apple and AT&T will be able to turn on a 3G network instead of the painfully slow (Id bet on a modem over the current EDGE speeds) network you now get. I think the next version of the iPhone will let you switch carriers (choice—a new concept!) rather than be chained to one provider for two years. I think in the next version you will actually be able to use your Wi-Fi connection for Wi-Fi calls, which you cant now.


Before I get all the iPhone and Apple fanatic e-mail, let me repeat: I like the direction the iPhone is heading. I just think before you shell out $500 for the iPhone and $60 a month (cheapest) for a service plan, you should wait for version 2 sometime around the December holidays.

Speaking of lines, far be it from me to remind all of you that in November 2005 I wrote that I was giving up my place in the Xbox line because I thought there were some reliability questions— particularly in terms of how the box would use a new liquid cooling technique—that remained unanswered. Well, on July 5, Microsoft provided a $1 billion answer to the Xbox reliability issue. From the MTV story about Microsofts big blunder: "Following months of consumer complaints about failing Xbox 360 units, Microsoft announced Thursday that the company will extend the warranty on every Xbox 360 sold since the system launched and offer full repairs for the most widely reported console malfunction, the so-called red ring of death. The company indicated that the new policy will cost Microsoft $1.05-1.15 billion." My only regret is that I didnt coin the "red ring of death" description.

If you wander through the blogs you can find all sorts of attempts to keep the Xbox cool including wrapping a cool towel around the box. How about an old-fashioned ice bag, which provides at least some hangover relief? In any case, $1 billion is no big deal for Microsoft.

The corporate lesson here is to beware of technologies that worked well in the lab but are going to meet some big glitches in full market deployment. You dont want to be the first on your block to find out that the nifty technology that promised to give you, say, twice the power at half the cost just doesnt work no matter how many dollars you spend or how many people you devote to try to get the thing working. Vendors are very, very reluctant to admit they screwed up. In software, they admit they screwed up by trying to sell you another round of software that fixes their past mistakes. Before you go deploy a new technology, it is worth building your own prototype deployment to give the new systems and new technologies a thorough working over.

Las Vegas. What does that have to do with corporate computing? I suppose you could say that all computing projects are a toss of the dice, but I was thinking more of the recent 115 degree temperatures that have broiled the Strip. Maybe global warming is not real, as many of you like to tell me each time I write about the topic. But at 115 degrees, you are going to be spending an enormous amount of money trying to keep cool. Let that 115-degree mark remind you to go figure out how to reconstruct that server room before a server meltdown melts down your company.

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