The rise of the consumer smartphone has presented a host of difficulties for the business world. Quite apart from savaging the market share of the once-dominant BlackBerry, the iPhone and Android have presented problems for business owners whose employees don’t want to carry separate devices for work and for personal use. This has caused concerns over both device deployment and security, and various businesses have dealt with these issues in a variety of ways.
The advent of Siri with last year’s iPhone 4S has added a new wrinkle to the problem. As you may know, Siri doesn’t process voice requests on your phone. It uploads them to Apple’s servers (along with some basic data from your phone, including your contacts) and processes them there, then sends the results back. That has raised a whole new set of concerns with some companies.
IBM takes a particularly cautious approach to such issues. IBM CIO Jeanette Horan recently told MIT’s Technology Review that the company disables Siri on employees’ iPhones over concerns that users’ requests might be stored on Apple’s servers. Of course, Siri isn’t the only one on the chopping block – IBM employees are also forbidden from using services like Dropbox to store company files, from using their phones to create wi-fi hotspots, and from forwarding work email to a web-based email service like Gmail.
With the iPhone and Android continuing to eat away at BlackBerry’s market share, the number of businesses that issue mobile devices to their employees is diminishing rapidly. In fact, data released in February shows massive growth in the adoption of Apple’s iOS products – the iPhone and the iPad – in the business world. As these devices proliferate in the workplace, security issues are going to become an increasing problem. Fortunately, though, there are already a variety of companies that specialize in helping businesses manage the security and deployment of their employees’ mobile devices. While they may lack the simplicity of the services that come built into the BlackBerry platform, they offer similar solutions. Even so, businesses are forced to try and strike a very careful balance between making their workers happy by allowing them to use their own devices, and making sure that their data is secure.