BYOD: What the people think

The readers of ZDNet are by-and-large a bright bunch, and comments on a recent article about BYOD shed light on how it works and what to expect in the future.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

A recent article about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement gaining strength due to the capable tablet generated over 200 comments from readers, proving how volatile a topic this is. Many comments denied the existence of BYOD because the commenters had not seen it in practice where they work. Other commenters set them straight, as their companies have employees bringing their own devices to work.

Commenter techconc details how BYOD is working at the large company where he/she works:

I work for a relatively conservative Fortune 500 company that has been very Windows centric on the desktop, etc. for years. My comments are surely anecdotal, but I'm seeing a similar trend at other companies as well.

With regard to tablets, though Android is an option now, it's pretty much exclusively all iPads for tablets.

Just this past year, they've offered Androids and iPhones for phones in addition to Blackberry. BYOD devices are now allowed as well. I'm seeing a 9:1 preference for iPhone over Android. Blackberries are essentially being phased out.

Right now, iPad usage is just for management, but it's just a matter of time before this gets rolled out to a larger audience as those who use them have been very happy. Though, they way they're used, they might as well be netbooks because they come with bluetooth keyboards, etc. as standard issue.

It sounds like phones are a big part of BYOD, with BlackBerry on the losing end. Tablets are showing up but primarily for management, lending credence to other commenters who stated emphatically that you can't do 'real' work on tablets.

Many folks have a genuine concern about how their personal data will be kept separate from work information on devices brought to work. Commenter jondrew detailed how his company is handling the separation of work and personal information.

I work for a large corporation that has just deployed BYOD for iPhones and iPads. You get a free client on the app store that acts as a "container" for corporate info. You can access email, calendar and limited forms of web browsing. I was part of the pilot program that tested BYOD. I don't have an iPhone, but do have an iPad. After several months, I ditched my company BlackBerry. While accessing corporate email on my iPad is not quite as easy as BB's push email, the larger screen and virtual keyboard make it much easier to respond, open attachments and whatnot. The downside is that in order to use this system you have to agree to allow corporate IT administrative access to remotely wipe your device if lost or stolen, and have to agree to surrender your device in the event of some sort of IT incident so that it can be examined. I don't know how other companies handle this sort of thing, but while less than thrilled to accept those Ts&Cs, I really figure there's nothing on my iPad so secret or personal that I really care.

I hardly ever bring my laptop home anymore. Between access with my iPad and being able to remote in to my laptop with my home computer through the company network I have all the access I need for 90% of my work. There are things that are not fully baked yet. There are some Flash/Java issues that the client does not handle well (or at all in some cases). The iPad (and I would venture to guess most tablets) are virtually useless for anything but the most basic of spreadsheets. No playing with my 10 and 20 meg pivot tables here. Even a client like Onlive's Desktop, which gave me access to a full virtual Window's Desktop with full capability Office Excel was of limited use due to the touch screen interface and the small screen size. And while I'll go "commando" on a 1 or 2 day trip with my iPad only, anything requiring longer stays or visits to sister corporate sites requiring full access to the corporate network requires bringing my laptop along.

That being said, I use my iPad (and feel free to insert the tablet of your choice here) everyday at work for note taking (Evernote/Penultimate) and other work tasks. Many of my colleagues drag their laptops from meeting to meeting (and a power brick too most of the time) and I just have my iPad with a smart cover and stylus.

Like I said, its a work in progress. But I've been in the game since the big Green Screen P/CM desktops and IT has always been a work in progress.

The comments show that many who believe tablets of today are incapable of doing real work do believe that Windows 8 slates will change things. Tablets running Windows 8 are not on the market yet but many have faith in them to take over the BYOD tablet space.

Commenter rkwalters@ summed up this feeling:

I have found all to this point lacking in being able to leverage Office 365 or Sharepoint web apps. Right now the problem is the browsers, they are just not fully functional. Crippled as it were to fit the existing form factor.

I have tried multiple Android tablets and even the iPad. Now I will admit that it has been 4 months since my last test, so there may be one that actually will do what my client needs but as of yet I am still looking and / or waiting for Windows 8 / Windows RT.

While many are waiting like the previous commenter for Windows 8/ RT to hit the enterprise, it is evident that there is some confusion on how these new tablets will work with legacy apps.

Commenter danbi responded to one reader making the statement that all existing Windows apps will run on all Windows 8 tablets:

You are naive to think that you will save any money by staying locked to Microsoft. No software you already have will run on Windows RT tablets. Not a single application. It uses different CPU architecture, has no emulator for your Intel CPU (because the ARM CPU is way less powerful for this), has completely different Windows API (WinRT, instead of Win32) etc, etc..

You best bet is to diversify your installed base. Buy iPads (or Android tablets, if you wish -- iPads are just safer bet), then ask your software vendor to provide software for them. There are over 70 million iPads around already and zero, none, Windows RT tablets. If your software vendor will ever write tablet version for their software, it will first appear on the iPad, then possibly on Android tablets and if those people have nothing else to do, on Windows RT. Or, they may start with Windows RT if you are willing to pay them a lot of money.

Your other bet is to avoid non-x86 Windows platforms and settle for thicker, heavier, with less battery runtime tablets -- than those your competitors will use.

CFWhitman adds to the Windows 8 tablet discussion:

Windows RT tablets running on ARM processors will have similar strengths and similar weaknesses as Android and iOS tablets.

Only Windows tablets that run on x86 processors will have the advantage of additional options to run regular Windows applications. On the other hand, those will have the same limitations that they have now, i.e., it's inconvenient to try to run programs that were written for a mouse/keyboard interface with a touchscreen interface.

For Windows tablets to gain an advantage over other tablets because of regular Windows software, Windows x86 based tablets would have to become as small, light, and fanless as ARM tablets, and you would probably need an option to convert them to keyboard use when you wanted.

Many examples were given in the comments on companies using BYOD already, and even a surprising group that has adopted the tablet.

Boy, you must work at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. At my company's last IT directors meeting virtually ever single administrator was there with an iPad. 30+ people. ...in IT.

The arguments both for and against BYOD were too many to count, but dracodos made a compelling argument for leaving BYOD alone.

I still don't get it, this whole BYOD bothers me, to the point that i recently TOOK OFF my work email from my personal phone and disconnected my personal tablet from my works Citrix enviroment. I honestly prefer to do work @ work. The job will not implode if i'm not avail for a bit, especially when it's off hours, lunch, etc. Of course i'm also NOT a CxO or manager :P I use my work phone for business calls but since i don't do it often, and have a huge pool of minutes, i don't mind. i don't give anyone at work my personal phone number anyway! Only the service desk knows, which is the way i like it.

I am willing to test some things on my personal phone and tablet, and i do. But otherwise i don't use it for those purposes.

I have a work laptop that i use for site visits and keep at home, in case i can't get to work and/or don't want to use a sick day. maybe one day they'll move us to Ultrabooks or even the TF Prime with a keyboard dock, that would be nice!

Maybe I like to have the separation from work and home, its what keeps me sane and a father!

Keeping work and personal life separate is a compelling argument against BYOD, and many also believe that employers have an ulterior motive for allowing workers to bring their own gear.

The whole point about BYOD is not to make your life easier, not to give you the freedom to pick your favorite (or most fashionable) device, it is not to undermine M$, nor even to destroy RIM and their superb (if dated) business devices. None of the above, nor the other stories you've heard.

BYOD is simply a way for employers to pass the ever-rising cost of devices on to their employees; they've noticed that people are happy to pay stupid money to get the latest toys, and realised that they might as well cash in.

Not only will you pay hard cash that the boss should be paying ... you'll be making it even easier for them to track down your every move.

You wait; those same employers will soon be *encouraging* you to join the FB they hated last year ... now they know they can keep even closer tabs on you.

So what do you think? Is BYOD a plot to get employees to save company money by supplying work tools? Are tablets capable enough to be used for real work, or are they toys for managers? Does your company allow you to BYOD, and if so how do they implement the program? If tablets are used, are keyboards part of the package or slate only? Leave your thoughts in the comments to help us all figure out this relatively new situation. ZDNet readers are a savvy bunch, and this discussion will benefit many.


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