Thursday, November 1, 2007

It doesn't matter what you think

In an article for Fast Company, Zach Nelson (CEO of NetSuite), talks about the worderfullness of the iPhone. I don't know about you, but I followed the iPhone frenzy pretty closely since the January announcement, and I was surprised by all the strong opinions, and even more surprised about all the wrong opinions.

It seemed to me that the fastest way to get noticed in a blog, or in a magazine, or on TV, was to find something wrong with the iPhone. You didn't have to have experienced a problem (since almost no one had actually, you know, touched the new phone yet), and you could rule out entire classes of users (like people with jobs) based on how you imagined yet another group of people (like IT managers) would feel. For example, a common theme was that because the iPhone didn't work exactly like a RIM Blackberry, it could not, would not, and should not be used by any business person, ever. Or else. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Look, I used to be an IT manager, and I completely understand the desire to have things running in a nice, controlled, orderly way. I had lots of conversations with users about what technology they wanted to use, and whether that fit into our plan. The trouble was that every time I told someone they couldn't use something with our network, I was making my job easier, not theirs. And the trouble with that was that they were probably generating revenue for the company, and I wasn't.

This wasn't supposed to be an article about the iPhone, or about IT managers, or about bloggers who complain about technology they don't like. It was supposed to be about Zach's insight into the iPhone, which was really about new technology in general. So maybe I should get right to the point.

It doesn't matter what you think. It doesn't matter if you think the iPhone is good or bad for business users. Even if you are an IT manager. Even if you are the CIO. Even if you are the CEO. Not even if you are very well respected and widely read journalist.

If you still aren't convinced, just wait, and the decision will be made for you by your best and brightest new hires. Never lose sight of what the college students of today are accustomed to.
Zach Nelson, from the FC article.

Right now, college students might seem unimportant in the grander scheme of things. But next year, they (as a group) will be working in every segment of the economy. And after a couple of years, they will be doing most of the work. And a few years after that, they will be running the business. The communication tools and techniques they are getting used to now, will define how we work over the next decade.

The serious business phone - the Blackberry, is interesting because it does email so well. The Blackberry exploded in the late 1990s because of all the people who got hooked on communicating over the new medium of email in the early 1990s. The real power of the Blackberry is it's integration with the Microsoft Exchange corporate mail server. The iPhone doesn't do this integration very well; instead, it is much better at browsing the web than a Blackberry (or any other pocket device). Given that the biggest threat to Microsoft right now seems to be Google, and since Google's mail system uses a web browser, where do you think things will be in 10 years? Still not sure? Ask a newly hired college graduate which mail system he prefers.

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