Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is iTunes the next generation of the IT Department?

In business school we spent a good bit of time talking about corporate strategy and looking at where disruptive competition might come from. The simple thing to do is look at existing competitors or a start-up within the industry. But the real challenge is to consider that the next big competition might come from a completely different industry. A classic example is to look at the airline industry and consider how collaborations tools (Skype, WebEx, Cisco Telepresence) have allowed businesses to consider alternative ways to hold meetings and client interactions.

recent post by Chuck Hollis got me thinking about competition for IT departments. My response was partially inspired by a tweet from Twitter/Square founder @jack, where he mentioned that he now does about 90% of is daily work activities on his iPad. It got me thinking about how little I expect from my IT department on a daily basis, beyond basic network connectivity. So I stated doing some math and came up with a number of ~ $150/month in costs for my expectations of the "perfect IT environment" for me.
  • MacBookAir 11" = $999
  • iPad = $499
  • DropBox Pro = $480 (2yr, 100Gb service)
  • MiFi - $1250 (device + 2yr, $50/mo service)
  • Windows license + Office + VMware fusion = $300
  • Bandwidth = let's say $30/month, since it's equivalent to home broadband
I'd love to be able to get rid of that Windows line-item, but unfortunately some corporate environments require some flavor of Microsoft/Windows for compatibility. And some people will argue that I left off costs like "maintenance and disk space for your corporate email". Trust me, I don't like nor do I want to use the corporate email given to us. I'd much prefer to use Gmail, with 7Gb of space and better spam filtering. Others will point out that I'd be letting information outside the firewall. Fair enough, but my company also allows me to print almost anything (after I've authenticated) and walk out the door with it. It falls into the "we trust our employees and understand the information risks" bucket.  

All that aside, I got to thinking about who or what was really acting as my IT department these days. The entity that supported my computing environment, ensured compatibility and ensured availability of services is mostly "me", a "social meda community" or "iTunes". This isn't a knock on my employer, they do an excellent job. But things have evolved over the last 10 years, and radically evolved over the last 3-4 years as Mac/iPad/iPhone products and public cloud services have invaded the corporate environment. Machines don't crash anymore. iTunes provides my OS updates as well as providing an environment to get productivity apps. And I have 24x7 access to experts to help solve problems, without having to listen to any hold music. 

I'm not predicting the demise of IT departments, but maybe I've discovered the true "Self Service Portal" that we always talk about with cloud computing. 


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