Apple CEO Steve Jobs says the iPhone’s latest software tweaks due in June will make the device more palatable to corporate America. Oracle on March 11 launched an on-demand customer relationship management application that mimics popular consumer sites like Facebook and integrates with a worker’s personalized Google or Yahoo page. IBM on April 8 touted a portfolio of “mashups” that can combine corporate software with consumer web favorites like Google Maps. The common thread: The boundaries between corporate and consumer technologies are beginning to disappear.
This blurring of business and consumer focused applications is called “consumerization” by technology research firms such as Gartner and executives at companies such as Microsoft. Consumerization posits that consumer technologies — including social networking tools, user generated content and wikis (web-based software that allows people to create content collaboratively) — are being increasingly adopted by corporate America. These consumer applications are being used to develop software faster, share knowledge within a company, track projects and make corporate information systems more accessible to employees. According to Gartner analyst Steve Prentice, innovation is now coming from consumers and their favorite technologies. “Consumers are increasingly in charge. They are driving the specifications of technology. They are driving disruption and changing the balance of power,” he notes.