Employees could soon be buying their own work PC

One of the underlying trends of working in the corporate environment over the past few years has been the number of consumer software applications that have sneaked under the IT department’s radar to become a regular fixture on office computers across the land.

The most obvious example of this is instant messaging, which, despite the inherent security risk posed by consumer products such as MSN Messenger and ICQ, has become an important way of communicating in the business world, to such an extent that an outright ban by the IT department is often no longer an acceptable option.

Just looking at my machine I use all manner of consumer software from Google Desktop, through to Microsoft’s SNARF email application.

Analyst group Gartner, in new report , sees this consumerisation trend extending from software right through to the very laptop or desktop that we rely on to perform our daily tasks.

In coming to this conclusion Gartner has taken a close look at the plight of that dying species, the company car driver. Years ago many jobs came with a company car but now businesses have a tendency to provide their employees with a monthly allowance to buy and maintain a car, often stipulating that the car must be of a certain standard and within a set age range.

According to Gartner, this model could soon be applied to computer devices, such as notebook computers. The analyst group says it has two large enterprise clients running pilots in which they apply the automobile experience to computers and says that by 2008, 10 percent of companies will require employee-purchased notebooks.

Of course, the trend of employees providing their own hardware has been going on unofficially for sometime with unsanctioned wi-fi enabled PDAs and smartphones already finding their way into the work environment, so formalising this process would at least give IT departments some measure of control.

It does, however, raise the interesting question of what happens when things go wrong. When your car breaks down you can get the bus or a lift with a colleague to work but some how I don’t think that same colleague is going to be willing to share their laptop should your hard drive happen to go tits up.

It will also be interesting to see how this trend fits with the government’s Home Computing Initiative, which gives a £500 annual taxation exemption for the purchase of IT equipment for use at home. A laptop computer can obviously be used at home, as well as at work, so could this be used by enterprising companies to equip their staff on the cheap? Hmm I wonder..