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Will Apple's iPhone Trigger Kamikaze CIOs?

To the current or potential user of a complicated mobile smartphone, the promise of a user-friendly Apple iPhone is a welcomed development. To a corporate chief information officer (CIO) who leans towards the legacy "command and control" mindset, the iPhone is potentially yet another renegade user-initiated revolt that must be contained or quashed.

However, I would caution all highly-strung CIOs to think carefully before engaging in this battle. We know that the average tenure of the typical U.S. CIO has decreased, and they often lose their jobs because they confront a peer executive that has funded independent technology projects that were not mandated by the CIO and their staff. More often than not, when the dust has settled, the CIO is the one that's shown the door.

Why do so many CIOs follow this path? It's partly because they don't truly view their user clusters as internal "customers" who must be "served" -- but it's also due to a no-win situation where they're being asked to appropriately manage the security and integrity of the corporate IT environment. Clearly, it's easier said than done, particularly when you now have people who can experience a better -- more creative and productive -- information and communication technology environment in their home office than they do in their work office.

It's somewhat ironic, but a non-technical executive who previously had zero interest in using a Blackberry, smartphone or other PDA-capable device may be drawn to the user-interface simplicity of the iPhone. In fact, given the retail price of the iPhone, a company CEO, president and other senior executives may actually be the primary early-adopter of this expensive device. That said, will a CIO and their network managers take a balanced view of the upside/downside potential of this new gadget that enters the workplace?

NetQos, the fastest growing network performance management product and service provider, has been discussing this very topic on their company blog since January. I came across one of their recent posts on the issue of the "formidable threat" of the iPhone, and decided to contribute my own perspective in a comment.

In an ensuing e-mail exchange with Brian Boyko, the author of the NetQos blog post, I provided some additional background perspective as to why I was appealing to the use of caution when describing the iPhone in the context of a threat. Brian has included those comments in a follow-on post.

Frankly, the launch of the Apple device has raised the awareness of a nascent mobile value-added services market in the U.S., and I'm concerned that positive momentum may be lost for new enterprise applications if fear, uncertainty and doubt dominate this debate.

Regardless, as an influential adviser to their customers, I'm encouraged that NetQos is prepared to cover all sides of this timely topic, which is worthy of further informed research and thoughtful consideration.

Meanwhile, Adam Frucci, an associate editor of Gizmodo, is championing a boycott of the iPhone. Why? He says "The problem is, the iPhone is only available through AT&T, in my opinion one of the most unscrupulous telecoms around."

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