Data center folks are conservative
I was on a panel a couple of months ago with analysts from big firms touting deep data center research. My point then, and now, was simply “Data center management can tell you what they plan, but they can’t forecast change. They are the last to know.”

Not a criticism, simply an observation.

Who is stronger, users or IT?
The folks who pay the bills, obviously. Which makes the corporate acceptance of the iPhone an interesting battle to watch.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article (subscription probably required – I can’t easily tell) titled Companies Hang Up on Apple’s iPhone. IT departments are not planning to support the iPhone’s IMAP mail protocol and users are fighting back.

The initial plans of many companies to snub the iPhone will likely come as a disappointment to many consumers who are eager to substitute the iPhone for the multiple devices they carry around for music, cellphone and both corporate and personal email services. These users may put pressure on business technology departments to support iPhones even if that means incurring additional expense and changing their policies.

High-tech and high-income professionals
The article notes that a New York law firm IT department is getting pressure from its lawyers to support the iPhone. With law school grads starting at $160,000 a year, the lawyers have a strong case for getting what they want.

At a software company, the IT manager says he is getting at least one call an hour about the iPhone and is worried about “rogue employees” attaching them to the company network. He should worry. WSJ reports that a developer at the same company:

says he plans to ditch his new BlackBerry for an iPhone as soon as he can get his hands on one and set it up on his own. “Other people might be intimidated but I don’t care.”

Corporate IT isn’t the only one facing pressure
Apple will get blowback as well:

Apple may face pressure from iPhone customers to make the devices more compatible with their corporate email systems, according to Ranjan Mishra, a director at consulting firm Oliver Wyman in Boston. “They [Apple] should focus on the white-collar traveler segment who would like a nice storage device and some music and a corporate cell.”

Will Apple license BlackBerry Connect software, as Palm and Nokia have? Why not?

Update: Alert readers Wes and David pointed me to this post today in Daring Fireball. John Gruber knows a lot more about the plumbing than I do and his post is a good read with a different perspective. The money quote from DF:

Self-important IT experts will continue to insist that the iPhone “must” or “needs to” support “integration with business software systems”, but in the meantime, their employees will be buying iPhones on their own. Make no mistake, when IT blowhards dismiss the iPhone because it doesn’t integrate with “business software systems”, what they mean is Exchange. Apple’s answer to the “enterprise problem” isn’t to kowtow to the Microsoft Exchange hegemony; it’s to point in the opposite direction, and show how much better things can be with open industry protocols like IMAP and CalDAV and with simple web-based solutions.

Like many successful revolutions, this one might come from the bottom.

The StorageMojo take
Apple clearly wants to be a consumer company. They recently disbanded their enterprise sales teams in Europe, and I’ve heard rumors that the Xserve RAID, Apple’s low-cost, massive storage product, may be headed for the scrap heap of history. Which would be a big relief to people selling disk for 5x the cost.

But Apple may not have a choice in the matter. Consumerization of IT is a long-term secular trend with inexorable economics. With the iPhone Apple faces the prospect of becoming a (hand held) platform supplier to the enterprise.

IT has no love for Apple, and Steve returns the favor. Yet both are at the mercy of consumers who don’t care about the details. Will the iPhone mark the beginning of a new relationship between IT and Apple?

If CEOs buy iPhones, you better believe it. And Steve will have to bend as well.

Comments welcome.