Blog Post

Cisco's Chambers Sees the End of Business Machines

chambers_091107_tsWhen it comes to the way people interact with technology, the lines between business and personal have been erased, according to Cisco (s CSCO) Chairman and CEO John Chambers. Speaking on his third-quarter earnings conference call yesterday, Chambers said:

I carry the same two devices in my business life and my personal life. A PDA and my Flip. Another key takeaway is to understand [that] in my opinion, the argument about consumer devices and business devices, as well as the two architectures completely blurring, is over. The real question is how do the CIOs in the enterprise business facilitate this change, and that is from a number of recent meetings with some of the top CIOs in the world. They get it. They understand the change and how they facilitate it rather than slow it down.

Aside from his plug for the Flip camera, whose maker Cisco recently agreed to purchase, Chamber’s statements probably ring true for anyone who works for a company that doesn’t have a corporate IT-controlled email network. For example, here at GigaOM we use Gmail, which means I can sport my BlackBerry while one co-worker has an iPhone and another carries a G-1, and no one cares because our email is web-based. The same thing is happening at variety of offices, but those boundaries haven’t been completely erased yet.

Friends of mine who work at firms like IBM, Nvidia (s NVDA), Northrop-Grumman (s NOC), etc. still carry their business gadgets and their personal ones, if only because their IT departments demand it. So while I agree that consumer hardware is now just as powerful and functional in many cases as the business hardware, issues like corporate control and security still mean most people have two sets of gadgets. Perhaps as cloud-based desktops gain favor, this will change. Readers, what do you think?

19 Responses to “Cisco's Chambers Sees the End of Business Machines”

  1. It is a hard to integrate life and work on 2 devices for the employee and the employer. The employee doesn’t want to carry 2 devices, wanting privacy and to seamlessly coherently juggle their time. The employer needs security, and control of their network.

    For 6 years ago IS has CC’d my work Email to a personal mailbox I use for work. Using CC when replying from the device to my desktop, Email can be put in sent mail. Better PDA phones have robust programs to edit and store attachments. Contacts can be mailed to and from a mobile device using outlook. With encryption programs personal & company data like credit card numbers can be kept securely in the same place. My company phone forwards to my personal phone I turn off after work

    Many executives at my company put shoe heel to Iphone saying “this device is useless, give me back my Blackberry, Palm, or Q. Docs to Go just introduced for the Iphone is a crude product compared to a 3 year old Palm version. It is forever tethered to Itunes when many users would rather use a different player or service. The same is true for the Itouch I bought. Assuming it was like my old nano and would sync with something else was a big mistake.

  2. I have used a Palm and various models of cell phones for the past several years and find the two devices both manageable, easy to carry and contain all the info I wish to have available. The obsession, and I do mean obsession, with Blackberry devices is appalling.

  3. “consumer hardware is now just as powerful and functional in many cases as the business hardware”

    You have it backward – business hardware is the one lagging behind consumer stuff, just like most non-executive company cars are drab compared to the ones people buy with their own money. This is simply because:
    1) Apart from pampered executives, most corporate peons have to do with the cheapest equipment the company can get away with.
    2) The people making the purchasing decisions are not the ones who will be using them, so user-centric features are prioritized last, far behind concerns like adhering to bureaucratic procedures or maximizing IT job security (i.e. using Windows)

    Ten years ago when I wanted an ultra-thin laptop and few were available outside Japan, I got a Toshiba Portege that Toshiba would normally sell only to large businesses (not even small & medium ones, let alone consumers).

    Today, I told my Fortune 1000 company they can keep their mangy HP laptops and Blackberry phones and I’d use my far superior MacBook Air and iPhone. Consumer-oriented Web 2.0 services are miles ahead in terms of usability or scalability than the outdated and usually horrendously unusable “enterprise” products. The Mac Pro I use at home is miles ahead of the substandard hardware we use at work.

    A big part of Apple’s success is due to the fact they deliberately turned their backs on the enterprise and the usual compromises it entails. Similarly, Linux and Open Source systems are far more secure, robust and efficient than corporate ones.

    What is going to happen is that at some point enterprises will realize how their vendors and IT departments are conspiring to keep them behind the times. IT apps will be outsourced to the cloud wholesale, and employees be given laptop stipends to spend as they please.

  4. @Ram – just about any smartphone will let you do pop3/imap4 and Windows Mobile, iPhone and Symbian at the very least will get you access to Exchange.

    @Kumar – I am told that Cisco is pretty firm about which phones employees can use, I think that some users of certain wifi voip services are limited to Nokia E71 and some other device.

    As much as I hate prattling on about the iPhone, it certainly did help tear down the wall between enterprise and personal, or at least poke some big, corner office size holes in that wall.

    • Mobilefoneb

      Jason: untrue. As a Cisco employee, you can get a Bold, Curve, Storm, iPhone, multitude of Windows devices, Nokia E71s or an iPhone. A couple of years ago, most people had moved to Nokia E61s. Since then people have moved to all types of devices.

      Most people have a Bold or Curve.

  5. Kumar

    The funny part of all of this is that Cisco employees can’t use web based email – the Cisco IT department doesn’t support it, so for all the talk of device freedom, its just talk. Maybe someday Cisco can walk the walk, not just let the Chambers talking head say whatever he feels like. Want to have real fun- ask John if his employees actually use any of the 0 contribution margin voice-over-ip software he has been hyping over the years. Another fun one- ask Cisco how many of their ‘Advanced Technologies’ ever got to the vaunted goal of billion dollar markets.

  6. iPhone lets you get enterprise email on the device, as well as personal. Its cheaper for corporations due to the fact that they dont need to buy blackberry servers on top of exchange servers. But most business users pefer blackberry productivity features.

    More important – people don’t want to conform to corporate communications policies that having one device would require. Do you really want to entertain that next job using you work device? Or have use foul language in an sms to a friend (esp. if you’re at a bank)? Probably not.

  7. Uhm, if your work place requires you to carry their gadget around, why not just leave it at work? I actually returned my work-issued gadget, and I feel no loss at my inability to access work e-mail from my mobile device. :)


  8. I agree and I see a need. So, how do we solve this problem?

    One possible solution is a laptop with following config,

    Hardware — Virtualization –2 Sw Head, one points to business cloud for storage and other points to personal cloud of choice for storage.


    • Yes, but how do we deal with security concerns? Companies will still want to control data loss by controlling systems and who they can interact with.

      Chambers’ mention of the Flip should be interpreted as, “Don’t believe anything I say.”

      • I agree that this is a hard problem to solve even with separate systems for work & personal use. Thanks to VPN & proliferation of broadband, it’s “data everywhere” now. It’s travels with people. It doesn’t stick inside the corporate wall any more…

  9. The problem comes of course for some industries, notably finance, where the employer has regulatory obligations to monitor communications made ‘using firm devices’. For some employees that extends further – Traders for instance are generally banned from using personal devices for fear of market manipulation. Trading firms generally implement blanket bans across whole classes of web based applications (mail, web based office, forums etc.) and actively monitor others. yes they are often throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but the reputational risk is perceived as high.

  10. I’ve been on this rant for a while. I believe that device makers need to get their software to the point that the device can be “two-headed”. The company can have complete control over the work side and the individual can have complete control over the personal side. Of course, the UI has to be smart enough to overlay them when, for instance, I want to see both calendars at once.

    If I leave the company and I own the device, they simply wipe the corporate side. If they own the device, I wipe the personal side. If it gets lost, we both have to wipe it.

    I believe both the iPhone and BB basically allow you to be one or the other but not both. (Which is an improvement over the BB which was only corporate and iPhone which was only personal). So… who is going to merge these capabilities first?

  11. interesting observation stacey and the message gets even powerful when someone like john chambers validates the fact. i am totally in favor of the “wall” to be taken off .. however, it all depends on how long the enterprise IT manager can continue to push the “wall garden” approach. smaller set up is where the overlap is lot more and it becomes so much convenient for the end user.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  12. krishnabaidya

    interesting observation stacey and the message gets even powerful when someone like john chambers validates the fact. i am totally in favor of the “wall” to be taken off .. however, it all depends on how long the enterprise IT manager can continue to push the “wall garden” approach. smaller set up is where the overlap is lot more and it becomes so much convenient for the end user.