Nice article, Cabe. There are a couple other aspects to this story that's I've seen anecdotally. For one, these devices let employees bring their own workspace. I expect more and more people will use these devices to work from home. Another thing I've seen is people are using their personal devices for work rather than using the devices handed out by IT. Many people would rather use their personal iPhone for work rather than using the company Blackberry.
Freedom from I.T. snooping, activity tracking, and control of work resources drive this trend. Like I said, my colleagues and friends all have gone down this route. Only using the work computer for things like email and file storage. Of course, some backlash will be felt. Banning use of cell phones. Perhaps even using a cell phone jammer (though they may be illegal now).
Only real downside is, what if your personal system gets broken or stolen along its lifetime. All one's unbackuped work will be lost. I imagine their job would soon follow suit.
The division between one's personal existance and one's employment existance is a challenge indeed. Keeping personal separated from work, in my case, was helped a lot by the published management policy that everything done on company equipment was company property and not private at all. So when I chose to do work at home it was done on my computer and then transferred to the company system by removable media, which assured me that my system was kept separate from corperate examination. No, it was not quite as convenient as other methods, but good security is seldom as easy as ineffective security. We all need to remember that fact.
What always bugs me about "the cloud" is the fact that the cloud is still just computers somewhere remote. Systems that can fail, lose data. Some I.T. guy could spill a mountain dew on some harddrives, and there goes your mountain of work and files.
It reminds me of about 10 years ago when the Microsoft Hotmail servers went down, and a huge majority of people lost all their emails. This included me. I lost all the exchanges I had with a girl I just met at the time, who is now my wife. The loss has shaken my trust in the cloud.
The cloud is great for portability, but I wouldn't rely completely on it.
I just finished reading an article in WIRED about password security. If you consider this trend of personal devices at work combined with the general lack of security provided by password protection - it seems likely there will be more and more hacker issues arising in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see some rather draconian protections put in place by companies as backlash. Great article by the way. You touched on a very relevant and timely workplace issue.
I agree with your point that it is very challenging now to separate one's personal life from one's employment existance. As we carry our computer devices around when we travel, time is spent doing both work and personal business on the same device. One of my co-worker solves this problem by carrying around one smart phone for work and one smart phone for personal business (which can be cumbersome).
I found your comment "I even use my own oscilloscope, data logger, and soldering station. Times are changing. The consumer world and the corporate business structure are inevitably merging" interesting - I agree, the trend is not limited to Smart devices. I can't count the number of times I have used my own equipment because I didn't want to wait the week it would take for the P.O. to get approved or it was a one shot deal and so rather than incur the expense on the company when I already owned the needed equipment, I used my own o'scope, or function generator, or soldering iron, or whatever...
I have my own machine shop at home, which I have used for my day job. I thought it was a fair trade to go home early and make parts in my shop.
That was until one day, I ran my mill outside its work envelope. I immediately destroyed my servo motors and drivers. That was two months ago. I just received parts to fix it. It's going to cost me quite a bit to get back up to speed in both time and cash.
So, it is not always beneficial to use your own equipment on the job.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.