Motorola attempts to thwart BYOD efforts, claiming it's actually more expensive

While many companies and IT shops are embracing BYOD, Motorola Solutions is looking to derail those BYOD efforts with innovative technologies

Last week Frank Ohlhorst wrote a story for eWeek talking about how Motorola is turning away from BYOD and the Consumerization of IT.

From his story: While many companies and IT shops are embracing BYOD, Motorola Solutions is looking to derail those BYOD efforts with innovative technologies that not only meet the needs of the user but also fit into the IT department's ability to manage and govern equipment and operations. The company is setting the stage for IT departments to take back control of devices, applications and security with an extensive knowledge base of why vertical market solutions are a better fit for most business entities, as opposed to the consumer-level devices that many organizations are trying to shoehorn into their IT environments. … For its customers, Motorola Solutions is trying to demonstrate the hidden costs of consumer-level devices, while highlighting the operational savings of using enterprise-level products, which can be more easily provisioned, customized and managed by IT.

(I should point out that this article is about "Motorola Solutions," which is different than the "Motorola Mobility" that Google bought. Motorola Solutions makes expensive stuff for enterprise and government clients, while Google's Motorola Mobility makes phones and tablets.)

One of the motorola guys quoted in the article talked about how they have ruggedized tablets for warehouses that have longer lifespans than "other" tablets (read: iPads), so I guess that's their angle here. Motorola hears about organizations adopting iPads, and they want them to use Motorola devices instead. (Of course with Motorola Mobility's market share under 3%, I almost feel like Motorola is saying, "Hey, since we can't make things that people actually want to use, we have to get enterprises to force them to use our stuff." :)

The problem is that enterprise solutions (and companies that provide them like Motorola Solutions) are fundamentally conservative. Making devices with extended lives means that they will have new devices less often. So even if they do manage to build something that innovative and cool, six months later something else will come out that the end users will want, while that original "cool" Motorola device will still have to be supported for 6 1/2 more years. The consumer tsunami is the exact opposite of the conservative enterprise devices. Consumers want new device every year and new features every year, each sexier and different than the previous. Enterprises have almost zero chance of providing the devices that users want.

So what is Motorola thinking?

Motorola in Denial

By trying to derail the entire concept of the Consumerization of IT, Motorola Solutions shows that they don't get what Consumerization is.

First, the consumerization of IT is about more than just cost. I agree with Motorola Solutions that users picking their own consumer-quality devices does have a higher TCO than a company-controlled device. But IT isn't just about the lowest TCO. If it were, we wouldn't have Blackberries or desktop virtualization.

Second, the major point of the consumerization of IT movement is that the power is in the hands of the consumer--the end user in this case. The whole problem that we're trying to solve is that users can basically do whatever they want on whatever device they want. This Motorola standing up and saying "Hey! Guys! Pay attention to me!! You're not doing it right!! Guys?? Hey!!!" But the end users don't care. (Do you think any users give a hoot about whether using an iPad is going to be a higher TCO for the company or not?)

Third, Motorola is unfairly blaming the consumerization of IT for their lack of ability to sell enterprise solutions. The article quoted them as talking about specific enterprise line-of-business applications, like warehouses and point of sale. But this is the consumerization audience! I can't imagine a scenario like "Hello new employees of Walmart. Do you have your own Point-of-Sale device or do you want to use a company-issued one?"

The danger here is that Motorola is jumping on the consumerization trend to talk about why their anti-consumerization approach is better, (And obviously it's working, because now there are at least two articles about them.) But I wonder if this attitude does more damage than good? It seems that the "problem" that Motorola Solutions is trying to solve is one about device selection for enterprise IT systems, not a true consumerization of IT problem. My fear is that by hitching their message to the consumerization wagon, Motorola Solutions will spread their naiveté about consumerization their customers, causing customers to think, "Yeah, this consumerization thing is expensive! Screw it!"

And of course that attitude is the whole reason that most companies are being caught off guard in the first place. Expensive or not, consumerization is coming!

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I agree with your sentiments Brian. Motorola solutions have a vested interest in promoting fear in the market around BYOD but I wonder what their previous colleagues at Motorola Mobility would think given that they are trying to sell large quantities of smartphone and tablet devices to consumers (many of whom will work for large enterprises); perhaps the previous conflict of interest was a motivation for the sale to Google.

For many, many users the days when your company provided your single computing device are gone and will not return. IMHO anybody in enterprise IT who believes they can stem the flood of consumer devices (from which users will demand access to company resources) is living in the past and only prolonging the inevitable changes instead of embracing the new wave of computing and enhancing their career at the same time.


"Hey, since we can't make things that people actually want to use, we have to get enterprises to force them to use our stuff."

That was exactly my thought before I even read this article, when I only saw your Twitter post. All the legacy enterprise IT vendors are nervous because their customers aren't the ones making purchasing decisions anymore (in certain markets; i.e., mobile devices). So of course they're going to fight consumerization -- instead of, you know, spending time making products that consumers actually want to buy.


I can see where Motorola Solutions is trying to go with it, but I think they are going to end up swimming against the tide here if they try to extend this beyond the specific industry verticals mentioned in the article.  The entire consumerization trend is based not in devices or technology as much as it is workstyles and lifestyles, or in other words, people and the choices they make.  There are use cases where consumerization makes sense (mobile workers, power users, etc.), and those where it doesn't (POS, call centers, supply chain workstations, etc.).  Forcing a mobile user onto a specific device might make it easier to manage, but these same users today also want and need the flexibility to do their computing from any or many devices.

It's interesting that Motorola solutions is looking to de-consumerize and bring hardware management back into the IT administrator's realm of responsibility, when many organizations have at least entertained the idea of getting out of that business through application virtualization, SaaS and web apps, client-side hypervisors, etc.  In other words, I as an IT admin using these technologies could care less and less what the endpoint is, much less having to manage it beyond requiring that the end user install a certain client or plugin or some other relatively minor prerequisite for them to access their applications and data.  Motorola solutions would have me going back 5-10 years where I am now back in the business of staging, building, provisioning, and maintaining client hardware?  I don't see how that supports their "BYOD is more expensive" argument, especially with their proposed methodology which essentially locks one into a single-vendor ecosystem.

For the industry-specific vertical solutions that Motorola solutions is probably trying to service here, the approach might be fine, although it's certainly not novel.  The industries cited in the article are not really those which ever probably had a significant clamoring for consumer devices in the first place (like Brian's analogy of the Walmart POS).  Use cases which have previously had a requirement for specialized hardware are going to continue to have it (rugged use, extreme environments, specialized function) and are never going to be prone to infiltration of consumerization and consumer devices which obviously would be ill-suited to those tasks.


While there are valid arguments in favor of IT setting limits and creating standardization within their organizations, there are also arguments to be made in favor of putting the right tools that get the job done in the hands of workers. Since the bulk of my experience is from the "consumer" standpoint (i.e. a customer of IT), I obviously have a bias toward that direction. My bias is backed up by my experience in our engineering department having carte blanche on whatever devices we wanted to use. We were required to be able to solve our own IT issues as well. Since we almost never had any issues (even when running pre-alpha software and hardware of our own making) we got used to having our own way. When my portion of the department got bought out by a company with more strict IT directives, I let them put their platform of choice on my desk, but never used it since it was not suited to my needs. I continued to not have any issues, while other people continued to have their various and sundry issues. IT's cost of ownership for my choices was infinitesimally small. Obviously another user may have a different experience, but that's mine.


The enterprise has to manage risk and therefore puts corporate controls in place to do this.  Most IT/security teams have not realized the daily impact/cost their controls put on business productivity/value, managing for a perceived future risk.  Users had no other option, because ICT was expensive.

After 25 years in ICT, I see this as the perfect storm, consumer ICT that can add business value/productivity.  IT/security teams need to adapt, not block.

Oh, and Motorola? I buy my consumer ICT based on productivity/usability.  If your product is used 40% more by users to access the Internet and get tasks done, because it's simpler, I'll ditch Apple in the next 2 year refresh.  Good luck :-D


There is a legitimate Motorola side to this in that 1) BYOD deployments tend to be more expensive because of corporate reimbursement and support models. Regardless of the employee's intent, the company still has to worry about supporting any device the employee uses once it becomes part of the IT infrastructure. Cost is still a viable concern and important aspect of enterprise IT.

2) Mobile applications tend to be more useful and productive when they are thin and focused rather than when they are replicas of desktop software. Companies are focused on providing an environment that makes employees more effective and productive. For focused and specific use cases (field service, field sales, POS, this approach can still make a whole lot of sense.

All that being said (and I come from the IT admin world before my analyst days), consumerization of IT or ITation of the consumer is a relentless trend. We choose our own cloud services and apps, create our own social networks, and use our own devices to create our own technology ecosystem. It's hard to completely break down that ecosystem and effectively replace it with a corporate ecosystem no matter how well-intentioned IT tries to be. There has to be compromise at some level and the endpoint (mobile device) is the safest and easiest place to do it in the long run. As long as as you control business transactions at the endpoint, ownership becomes less important.

I still think that flexible corporate deployments are the best way to go: endpoint neutral sourcing and mobility management are ideal from a cost and support perspective. But it doesn't have to be a 100% lockdown and prescriptive approaches to IT are definitely becoming a thing of the past as they're no longer necessary to ensure employee productivity in many cases.


I've written about CIOs who found that consumer devices like iPad can have breakage/loss rates BETTER than ruggedized devices, simply b/c employees are more attached to them and treat them better.