The Future Ends at the Firewall

Great article in the Financial Times about the reversal that has occurred in the past few years, in which richer and more powerful services are now available to home users than to office users: :

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….

“In a lot of companies, the desktop is locked down – only the IT department has access to it,” says Dave Girouard, general manager of Google’s enterprise division. “There’s no question that consumer technology is racing ahead at a breakneck pace. Enterprise technology kind of slogs along; the adoption rates are much slower.”

The title of the article, “The Future Ends at the Firewall” reminds me of the dire prognostications on internet mailing lists when firewalls were first introduced, that by breaking the network, they were the wrong approach both to security and the ultimate health of the network.


Firewalls are only part of the problem dissected by the article. It also talks about IT policies that limit the grassroots technology adoption that has been one of the source of IT innovation since the PC first invaded the workplace, and the lags in bandwidth that make some technologies unusable.

Of course, the office firewall and desktop lockdown are only part of the problem. The US as a whole lags in broadband adoption, due to the shortsighted policies of the telcos. A reminder that the line between the digital haves and have-nots may end up being drawn in unexpected places, with enormous consequences not just for businesses but the economic health of nations.

(Via Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed blog.)