The BBC's big PDA problem

Take the network by the scruff of the neck, sure, but why cosy up to Microsoft?
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

Take the network by the scruff of the neck, sure, but why cosy up to Microsoft?

It took silicon.com's news team the best part of Monday to stand up what could turn out to be one of the most significant stories of the year. The BBC - one of the country's biggest users of technology - is banning Palms, Psions and any other handheld device that is not Microsoft Pocket PC-compliant. For anyone responsible for corporate IT strategy the decision will resonate. If you haven't taken a stance on PDA use in your organisation you will have to soon. First, let's congratulate the BBC for addressing a potential security threat. The spread of viruses on the network and deliberate dissemination of company confidential information are just two risks PDA misuse poses. There are, of course, other ways on to the corporate network but this is a good start. Asked to detail the top ten priorities for IT directors in 2002 David Taylor, silicon.com columnist and ex-IT chief at Cornhill Insurance, included security, insisting not only is it crucial for the IT department but that it is the "CEO's number one priority, by far". Juxtapose this with a CSC-commissioned survey out today which suggests 50 per cent of IT directors in the UK still do not have a security policy in place and you have to say the BBC has been forward thinking. But the decision does raise two other questions rather more difficult to answer. First, if the 'safety risks' are so real why is the BBC giving its staff another 18 months to change PDAs? Until the summer of 2003 employees can continue porting data from any handheld to BBC computers. Second, why choose the Pocket PC platform? It may be a stable, secure platform but has the BBC's IT department satisfied themselves that this is the case? Has it been tested against the relative security merits of the Palm operating system or the increasingly popular Symbian OS, which Psions use? Or has the Beeb decided a Microsoft-only software strategy is the safest route? Judging by the Reader Comments already posted on our original story there are a few people who would take issue with that one.
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