Trading Scalable for Happier Users?

I’m Agnostic

Full disclosure before I start. I’ve always been a bit of a Windows fan. That said I’ve also been an Mac fan. I sit typing this on my Surface Book while my Mac Book Pro that I use regularly is in the other room, my iPhone is beside me, my son is watching a show on our iPad, and my android tablet is in the bedroom. I’ve said it before, I’m a technology agnostic. Whatever you use to get the job done doesn’t matter as long as the job gets done and people are productive. Especially at this point in time when it REALLY REALLY doesn’t matter what platform you use because every software tool I can think of is independent of that. Apart from some slight nuance, can you think of a software tool you use that doesn’t exist on both mac and windows devices? Beyond that, most of the tools you just thought of are at least somehow existent on Linux due to the drive to gain the Android market. One of my users is actually running Microsoft Word natively on a Chrome Book. (Hey Google, thanks for the play store options.)

I can honestly say that in a consumer grade instance I don’t really care what people use. There are advantages and disadvantages for each option.

Function Over Form Wins Out

Where that idea has always stalled in my mind is with corporate environments. On a high level I agreed that it’s arguably better for someone to have what they’re used to as they will be more productive. Even with the advancements in Windows (Windows 10 can be a productivity powerhouse) my wife who hasn’t touched Windows since XP is definitely experiencing a learning curve going back to it at work. While, after a 15 year hiatus, coming back to find windows better, she’s still used to Apple’s shortcut keys and is having to do some relearning.

The productivity and usability are part of the reason that Apple products have made their way into the enterprise. As Apple has increased its market share, employees at all levels have pushed for greater use of those tools in the workplace. Even in my organization, which is primarily a windows shop, we have a small amount of organization owned Macs based on employee role and we’ve added a Bring Your Own Device policy that employees can opt into. I don’t see it slowing down.

Problems to Solve and Tensions to Manage

Still, as things are opened up, I have a growing concern around the expanding footprint of employee owned devices due to scalability and security. There’s always a sliding scale between usability and security. Depending on where you land on that scale is how you will make decisions about your environment. I want to allow a diversified environment where the need to secure to enterprise resources doesn’t cause a reduced experience and the need to access them doesn’t open an unnecessary security hole in our systems.

Microsoft’s Increasing Openness – More Solution and Less Problem

This growing concern was a barrier in my mind until recently. I was listening to some interviews from Satya Nadella (Microsoft’s CEO). Microsoft has visibly made a push for a significantly more open platform, and that is in part due to Nadella’s ability to see the shift in market. As mobility has increasingly become a need, so has openness. With that, Mobile Device Management tools have popped out of the woodwork.

If there’s one company that can do this in a secure way, Microsoft will win. Not because they’re better, but more because they’ve historically had a larger market share and by that nature they’ve also been dealing with security concerns for much longer. It appears that the long-term (20+ year) vision for Microsoft is an emphasis to cloud based management tools such as MDM and a slow killing of local infrastructure such as Active Directory and Group Policy. Even now, a user can accidentally join a Windows 10 machine to Azure AD rather than a local instanced domain (ask me how I know). MDM is arguably more open whereas AD is not. Even in that openness, it fixes a lot of security concerns that on-premises infrastructure can’t. MDM is truly a sweet spot between security and usability. (e.g. if a device gets stolen, you’re able to remotely wipe it and even see its location)

At the end of the day, all of this begins to look like management for both Windows and Macs look the same and can be accomplished through the same tools. Just like our software based counterparts that are platform independent, the management tools become so and we get closer to true platform independence without compromising enterprise level scalability and security. What a world!

Needless to say, there are deeply embedded tools that will cause this to be a slow roll and I’m still exited about what the next 5 years will bring. šŸ™‚