Internets Haves and Have-nots: Home vs. Office

It used to be that to do anything useful with communications and computing technology — access printers, faxes, PCs, databases, and other services — you had to go into the office. As Richard Waters of the FT points out in a piece today, the situation has pretty much reversed itself, with more new Internet services being available “outside the firewall” at home. It is creating a new system of Internet haves and have-nots, with the lockdown of the enterprise desktop making it difficult, if not impossible, for people to use the same tools & service at work as they do at home.

New services from companies such as Google and Skype and the spread of domestic broadband access have created a new generation of digitally aware consumers. Having access to free video conferencing, or being able to examine the world in exquisite detail on a programme such as Google Earth, has awakened home computer users to the expanding possibilities of life on the web.

When they get to work, however, these same computer users are starting to find that many of the digital goodies they have come to expect are out of reach. That is more than just a frustration for individual workers: as more technology innovation shifts to the web, it could slow the pace at which many new technologies are adopted and prevent companies from reaping the full productivity benefits.

I ran into this recently when I had a new PC installed in my office. It was totally locked down, such that I could install nothing on it, which was incredibly irritating, treating a PC as VCR, which is a nice idea — and completely unworkable. Not everyone is able to insist that the lockdown be removed, which I did, so they are forced to operate as second-class computing citizens, not as productive at work as they are at home.

Related posts:

  1. Economics of Home Renovations
  2. It’s Full of AJAX Office!
  3. The Google Browser Office Pool
  4. Game Sales, Box-Office Receipts, & Mobile Gaming
  5. VOIP and the home “hoot and holler”

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Not only are things like Skype banned where I work, but also MSN messenger, any form of webmail, and newer systems even have desktop wallpaper and screen savers disabled. Makes the home office seem very appealing.

  2. Paul K. says:

    Those darn Globe guys ;-) But the problem is everywhere, and, as you say, it makes a nice home office awfully desirable — especially when the alternative involves commuting thru Toronto slush in December….

  3. Keshava says:

    I have found this has driven a lot of my adoption to true web services. Anything that’s run through a browser (and of course through port 80) means I can use it no matter how locked down my machine is.
    I used to love thunderbird w/ an IMAP service – now I use gmail, just so I can have the same interface everywhere. I tried replacing Trillian with meebo, but it’s not quite there yet – soon hopefully.

  4. Brian Dunbar says:

    I ran into this recently when I had a new PC installed in my office. It was totally locked down, such that I could install nothing on it, which was incredibly irritating, treating a PC as VCR, which is a nice idea — and completely unworkable.
    Hi – I’m your token IT guy. We do that for some really good reasons. Among those are;
    IT – as an operations unit – it always being told to slash operating costs. We look around and – lo – one of the major problems we have is that we’re busy running around fixing things that are broken because the PC is so easy to install ‘stuff’ on. This stuff usually works ‘ok’ but often enough it breaks the application you need to work, or dorks up your computer in other ways.
    Locking the desktop down is an effort to keep things from getting out of whack in the first place. I agree this is irritating. But you’re a smart crew – you tell ME how to allow you to install (say) Skype while keeping Edna-down-the-hall from installing Bonzer-Buddy and the trojan it carries?
    Aside from ditching ‘Windows’ altogether that is.

  5. Paul K. says:

    The short answer: There is no answer, other than maybe a competency quiz and widespread waivers of liability for people who want to operate without being locked down. But saying there is no answer isn’t really much help for people who find they are more productive working at home than in the office. An opportunity for someone, me-thinks, and at the very least another reason why port 80 services are the future.

  6. Alan Gahtan says:

    Reminds me of my first day as a law student at Canada’s largest law firm in 1989. I was given a terminal. I left early that day, went out and bought a cheap PC to put in my office. Of course, we didn’t have Internet access in the office back then but at least in gave me some control to use some useful applications.

  7. Actually, Brian, I think you might be onto something there :-)

  8. Deepak says:

    I am lucky that the IT policies in my company are based on the honor principle, i.e. as long as you know what you are doing and are not compromising security, you can install any software that you want (as long as it is legal). In a company full of very tech aware people that works, but I wonder if it would in other places, where people are not that tech savvy. I think the appropriate compromise would be IT departments and corporations adjusting to the times and maintaining a list of services and apps which they approve off. That way, people can use Skype, Backpack and the likes, while not installing random applications which may not be the safest to install and maintain.

  9. Brian says:

    “Actually, Brian, I think you might be onto something there :-)
    It has not escaped my notice that the places where I’ve worked that worked ‘best’ (for users and IT) the environment was in one case Unix-centric and in the other the software and ideas that supported the desktop PCs were ports from the Unix-verse.
    At the end of the day I’m convinced that I can run a computer network ‘on unix’ that beats the snot out of a comparable ‘windows’ network, in both cost and speed and competence of execution. The problem is getting the suits (no offense) to agree this is doable. One reason among many that working at a small startup is an attractive idea.
    “I wonder if it would in other places, where people are not that tech savvy. I think the appropriate compromise would be IT departments and corporations adjusting to the times and maintaining a list of services and apps which they approve off.”
    Doing that is going to cost money – both time and opportunity cost. Not the list but ensuring compliance.