Consumerization – a term coined in 2001– refers to new information technology emerging first in the consumer market and then spreading into business organizations.

The resulting convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries marks a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home.  Specifically, more and more people find that their home-based IT devices and services are both more capable and less expensive than those provided in the workplace.

(The term was first popularized by Douglas Neal and John Taylor of CSC’s

Leading Edge Forum in 2001 and is one of the key drivers of the Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 movements.)

The resulting convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries marks a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home.  Specifically, more and more people find that their home-based IT devices and services are both more capable and less expensive than those provided in the workplace.

 Did your thoughts immediately run to the iPhone?  That 2007 breakthrough mobile device, which took the Blackberry concept beyond the enterprise, today has been joined by an ever-growing plethora of mobile devices that can send and receive e-mail and provide anytime access to data via the Web.  Scary, right?  The back door is now permanently open.  And things will never be the same again.

Top security consultants at Cisco and other technology firms have a sobering suggestion:  embrace it, don’t fight it. They say that the trend of employees bringing their own mobile devices to work is unstoppable, so organizations need to re-think their network architecture to manage the changing security landscape and shifting network boundaries.

Tom Gillis, general manager of Cisco’s security technology business unit, said in a conversation with Quentin Hardy, deputy technology editor for the New York Times, “When you’re decoupling security from physical infrastructure, you can actually deliver better security.  With virtualization, we can now lift up the applications and OS and examine how they’re behaving.  That is incredibly powerful.”

Cisco has been allowing its employees to use their own consumer mobile devices for several years as part of their Bring Your Own Device program.  Gillis, speaking at an industry event, said, “Cisco has come to realize that embracing the consumerization trend is more rational than fighting it, even though doing so brings greater security risks.  One lesson we’ve learned is that you can create a better overall security solution by embracing these technologies, because people are going to use them anyway.  Security is very difficult to add later on, so you need to be proactive.”

Gillis said that Cisco’s BYOD program, which includes 10,000 Mac users, has reduced costs by 25 percent and led to a 200 percent rise in end user satisfaction.  He attributes the program’s success to the fact that “people want freedom of choice and the flexibility to choose the right tool for the right job.”

Gillis also said that Cisco sees opportunities for near-term innovation, such as security solutions that can understand both physical and virtual boundaries, regardless of the infrastructure underneath.  “Security in the future will need to be built into the fabric of the network itself.”

One of the major recent breakthroughs that owes its development to consumerization is Amazon’s Silk Browser.  Quentin Hardy recently wrote:  “With access to books, movies, and other media, Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet may look like another consumer toy.  However, an important part of the product, an advanced Web browser, is at the heart of where business computing is going.”

“The new Amazon browser, called Silk,” wrote Hardy, “seems to be the first of its kind built for the world of cloud computing, which uses the Internet to gain access to the extensive computing power in data centers.  Silk takes into consideration both the computing power in the user’s device and the computing power in Amazon’s enormous data centers, then executes tasks for maximum efficiency.”

Peter Vosshall, an Amazon engineer, described Silk in an Amazon video as “split between what runs on your device and what runs in the cloud.”

Hardy writes, “One early advantage of this product is likely to be fewer ‘handshakes,’ or short identification steps, between the device and the Internet.  After an initial signal, the authentication happens within Amazon’s powerful computers, which move signals faster than can travel through a wireless network.  Templates used in the format of Web pages can also be preloaded, so things pop up faster.”

Eventually, according to Hardy’s article, Silk will monitor consumer behavior, allowing Amazon’s machines to predict from past behavior where a customer is likely to go next.  “If you often move from reading, say, The New York Times’ front page to the Bits blog, Amazon computers will request that page ahead of time and have it preloaded for when you do make that move.”

The Silk browser, which for now is only inside the Fire tablet, and which connects to Amazon’s cloud, will learn how to better manage cloud tasks, allowing Amazon to gain precious skills in cloud computing.  The big change here is that up to now most programming problems were defined by how much processing power one had.  By shifting computing power to the cloud (which all Kindles do) the amount of processing power for most problems is no longer an issue.  Instead, Amazon has taken on the problem of correctly apportioning tasks and making millions of servers work together.

The next step for Amazon is very likely to offer these abilities to the corporate world.  Amazon led the way in cloud computing, modifying its in-house computing and storage systems for customers.  The Silk team has already begun searching for specialists in distributed systems and security, which will be critical areas for taking Silk beyond delivering media to serving corporate clients.

Back to Apple:  an InfoWorld article titled “Steve Jobs’ unintentional legacy: The consumerization of IT,” described how consumers brought their Apple-inspired expectations into the office, ultimately forcing a change in how technology was deployed.

The InfoWorld article said, “Steve Jobs’ disregard for enterprise IT was not a secret.  Yet without him there would be no consumerization of IT. He entirely changed the nature of enterprise computing — accidentally.”

According to the InfoWorld article, the iPod trained consumers to expect intuitive and accessible mobile technology in their everyday lives, while iTunes laid the foundation for cloud computing by training us to be comfortable navigating remotely administrated software services and virtual assets.  “The iPod did what laptop computers had not: It put affordable, compelling, portable technology into people’s hands, and it soon became a piece of tech integrated into the masses’ everyday routines. Once the iPod was part of our daily lives, the expectation of ubiquitous and convenient computing power became a permanent assumption.”

When the iPhone came along, its owners became convinced that it was absurd to not be allowed to use “a powerful, elegant phone for basic work tasks.”  Users cared less about IT’s need to control software installations than they did about the iPhone helping them do their jobs.

In Steve Jobs’ Macworld 2001 keynote address, he said that the PC was evolving from the productivity era to the digital lifestyle, becoming the hub of people’s everyday activities.  In the following decade, Apple did just that by removing the boundaries of that hub, and by introducing products that brought technological advances into everyday life – paving the way for the consumerization of IT.

While Jobs may have never intended to change the enterprise, he altered the behavior of the people whom the enterprise serves.  In his keynotes, Jobs frequently spoke about the ability of Apple’s products to enhance everyone’s latent creativity.  Ultimately, their products – which were never meant to see the inside of a server room – changed the very nature of corporate computing.