SMBs should Beware of the Fanboy Complex

Paul Mah

On our network CTO Edge site a few weeks ago, fellow blogger Wayne Rash wrote about "The Smartphone Fanboi Peril," where he talked about the release of the new iPhone 4 and the more than a million units that were sold within the first few days of its launch. While it makes for great water cooler talk, Wayne warns that such massive adoption of a technological product comes with implications for businesses.


On this front, he highlighted that "fanboi" (or "fanboy") behavior can be detrimental to the IT department's ability to make a balanced and thorough evaluation on the suitability of the product for use in the corporation.


Wayne wrote:

Being a fan clouds judgment; it causes a person to make decisions on what they wish the truth might be, rather than what it actually is. And, sadly, the iPhone fanbois will go to any length to prove that their obsession with the iPhone 4 is justified, even if it costs your company money, reduces productivity, or interferes with your IT department.

Now, allow me to first clarify that I am all for adopting the best tools for the task at hand, which includes the possible use of iPad tablets and iPhone smartphones within the SMB. In this instance, however, I agree that the potential of what I coin as the "fanboy complex" can quickly short-circuit the decision-making process. And this is especially the case in the context of small and mid-sized businesses where IT departments are smaller and procedures on IT acquisitions not as well-defined.


But surely Wayne's assertion that "the iPhone partisans won't be satisfied until you make your IT operation revolve around the object of their affection" is overreaction.


I had some kind of encounter on this recently when I offered a contrary opinion as to whether Apple products are ready for the enterprise. Central to my argument was a little-publicized bug in the recently released iOS4 that caused iPhones at times to improperly synchronize mails and contact data, as well as to inadvertently consume far more resources than they should on Exchange servers. In a nutshell, these bugs directly threaten the ability of organizations with large numbers of iPhone users to continue to offer push e-mail to them.


My contention that Apple's reaction could have been more forthcoming was met by some who fired back with comments that were not related to the issue at hand. One user pointed to the bugs in Microsoft products and asked, "What is the justification for continuing to use Microsoft's highly vulnerable products?" Perhaps not realizing that my point was over the lack of communication, another user argued, "Since when Apple will comment to anything pertaining to them [bugs]..." and urged readers to just "let Apple do its work" and that a fix will be ready in due course.


While there are, of course, many other arguments that were reasoned and logical, I feel that my experience does bear out the existence of the fanboy complex.


The truth though, is that I'm sure most of us - me included -- are guilty of displaying our enthusiasm at some time or other about our favorite electronic gadget. Yet this should not, and must not, detract from the need to perform a reasoned appraisal of the tools to be used within the company.


SMBs in particular must be careful not to "go with the flow" or to succumb incorporating the favored smartphone or gadget of the month simply to placate users.

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