Cisco’s creatively named “Umi” service aims to bring home video conferencing out of the PC and onto the television screen. At a list price of $599 Umi presents a high-definition alternative to free services such as Skype, Apple iChat AV, ooVoo, Sighspeed and Yahoo Chat. While Cisco is positioning Umi as a consumer product, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that before long, some business user is going to ask the IT department how to integrate their home Umi device with the enterprise video conferencing system so they can participate in video conferences from the luxury of their living room sofa.
This “consumerization” of IT is part of a growing trend as workers increasingly expect the devices and services they use in their personal lives, be they iPhones, iPads, Droids, or social networks such as Facebook, to be accessible from within their work environments. Nearly half of firms report that employee use of personal technology is impacting their overall IT strategy; some even note a desire to enable personal devices to reduce support costs. In a few cases we’ve heard of IT departments providing a stipend for employees to buy their own devices, for which they are responsible for their own hardware support (for example, using this approach to outsource desktop device support to the Apple Genius Bar if employees choose Mac).
For the IT manager, consumerization will continue as a trend. Exploit the possibilities to use it to improve worker flexibility and reduce operating costs.