Every year the big CES show in Las Vegas just keeps getting bigger and bigger, encompassing more and more technology under the heading of ‘consumer’. In recent years it’s also been increasingly a trend-setting event around personal technology. It’s the same technology that is being brought into the enterprise under the heading of the consumerisation of IT. It’s not now a simple issue of whether employees bring their own smartphones or PCs into the workplace, it’s a complex arrangement around ‘at work’ defining an activity carried out at a convenient place, home, airport, café on the road, etc using the most convenient device and form of connectivity.
CES has a special online page reporting on trends and it won’t be a surprise that it picks up on everyone and everything related to tablets. Even Microsoft got in on this trend announcing that Windows 8 would run on more than just the standard Intel/AMD chip sets, adding ARM the leading player in the smartphone market. Read on and it makes the point that an equally clear trend is not just the device, it’s the apps that go with the device, and everyone has got the Apple message! A feature-loaded device was good, but now it’s all about what you can do with the device so it’s only as good as the app shop supporting it. Mmmm, think about it; that means consumer IT is based on choosing the largest and most interesting collection of software to run on those devices that are also involved in some way or another for work tasks.

Not listed in the CES trends, as it doesn’t really fit there is possibly, is the most interesting point of all. It’s the Digital Living Network Alliance or DLNA for short. The vision statement, (taken from their web site) shared by all the significant consumer brands and some crossover brands covering home and business reads as follows;
Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) is a cross-industry organization of leading consumer electronics, computing industry and mobile device companies. We share a vision of a wired and wireless network of interoperable consumer electronics (CE), personal computers (PC) and mobile devices in the home and on the road, enabling a seamless environment for sharing and growing new digital media and content services. DLNA is focused on delivering interoperability guidelines based on open industry standards to complete the cross-industry digital convergence. DLNA has published a common set of industry design guidelines that allow manufacturers to participate in a growing marketplace of networked devices, leading to more innovation, simplicity and value for consumers.

This is a whole new approach that simplifies and combines what were previously separate activities covering connectivity standards, content standards, and one or two other things as well. In short it’s potentially a further game change for consumer IT by placing the ability to handle the new rich web/cloud environment in a fundamentally different way, including sharing and interactions with others.
There is little doubt that we are becoming a ubiquitous technology society and that most enterprises will welcome this as it provides new opportunities to create products and service markets. The trends from CES and the capabilities from the DLNA provide just this, but it’s as well to be aware that those same consumers are also employees and this must inevitably have an impact. Can you ignore it? I was a little shocked today to hear of a CIO who believes that these are games around a handful of employees and no concern of his, or his department. Brave man for his convictions, but I am a lot less confident and make a real effort these days to understand exactly what is happening in the consumer world.