Steve Jobs: The Accidental Architect Of Consumerization

Okay, so maybe it was Steve Jobs's plan all along. To make tools so profoundly useful and totemic that everybody wants one. But surely in the dark days of the 1990s and early 2000s, nobody could have seen that Steve Jobs and Apple would overtake the enterprise. But it happened.

First was iPod. After an enthusiastic start restricted to a few million Macintosh aficionados, Apple ported iTunes to Windows and suddenly 100 million people were using iPods. And a new gadget was weighting down the pockets of business travelers and everyday employees. And then it wasn't so heavy after all as Apple volume-priced the flash memory market and shank the gadget to nano size.

Consumerization whispered, "I'm coming." IT wasn't too worried, but it did scramble to keep iTunes off of corporate desktops. [It didn't matter. People have computers at home.]

Next was iPhone. In the winter of 2008 before there was even an App Store, the guy behind the pizza counter at The Upper Crust in Lexington was swiping at his iPhone revealing page after page of colorful icons. When I asked him what that little swipey motion was all about, he replied, "Oh, these are apps. Games and instant messaging and movies and stuff. I get 'em off the Internet. There are hundreds of them." And I (and Apple) knew that the world had changed. Steve Jobs and team launched the App Store so tens of thousands of developers could build hundreds of thousands of applications. And make billions of dollars selling their work.

Consumerization knocked on the door saying, "I'm here and I want to get email on my iPhone." IT said no way and kept buying BlackBerrys.

Then thousands of vendors started building business applications to make iPhones truly useful at work. Vendors like DropBox and TripIt and Evernote and Box and Skype and Yammer and Huddle and QuickOffice and IBM and Adobe and Cisco. And suddenly people were bringing their iPhones and their own software to work.

Consumerization shouted, "I need business apps on this thing. And if you don't get them, I'll find them myself." (That's when we decided to write Empowered to showcase the business benefits of empowering employees to solve the problems of empowered customers.)

Was all of this in Steve's master plan? I kind of doubt it. Steve always focused on the individual and his or her experience. I can't tell you the number of times I hear from our IT professional customers that Apple doesn't care about the enterprise. But I also think that about this time, in 2009, Apple did start to care. I imagine it going something like this:

Our customers are using iPods and iPhones at home and at work. We should delight our customers no matter what time of day it is or what outfit they are wearing. So let's add some things that make our products more useful at work so IT can support them with business apps. Not too many things, mind you. We don't want to mess up the experience. But we should add the right things. Things like hardware encryption and APIs for device management vendors. Things like VPN caching. Things like notification networks and over-the-air provisioning. Things like a business app store.

And so they did.

And then came iPad and suddenly it was the CEO and the board of directors asking for business apps. IT threw in the towel. And today already 11% of US information workers use a tablet for work. And iOS is the darling of IT shops everywhere. "Bring-your-own device" has become code for bring your own iPhone. [Just as "bring your own computer" is code for bring your own MacBook.]

The architect of consumerization had turned accident into opportunity. The world of workforce technology will never be the same.

It's fitting to close with a prescient tweet from October 3rd. Rest in peace, Steve.