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R.I.P. Samsung Galaxy Note but what about the professionals?

As I type, Samsung has just announced the discontinuation of its flagship phablet (cross between a phone and a tablet, for anyone who isn’t that down with the kids), the Galaxy Note7. This is not to be confused with the smaller S7 phones on which there have been no reported errors.

The problem began, as reported last week, when handsets started bursting into flames. Or rather the batteries inside the phones started to do so. The solution appeared simple: go through a pretty expensive recall process and ensure the batteries are safe.

Unfortunately there were further reports of fires. The replacement batteries were defective and still caught fire. Samsung had no option but to withdraw them at around 11.30am today, with the statement: “We can confirm the report that Samsung has permanently discontinued the production of Galaxy Note7.” In terms of its reputation it had little choice.

The Note7 was in theory a consumer product. This does, however, raise serious issues for the corporate market, and that is due to one phrase: BYOD.

Bring Your Own Danger

It’s probably worth parking Samsung at this point. It’s done the right thing and given that few (if any) manufacturers actually make their own kit, this could have happened to anybody. The other brands will be relieved they weren’t involved. The IT professionals, however, will have something to think about.

A major trend in technology at the moment is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. An incoming generation (read: anyone under 30) expects to supply their own smartphone or tablet, and they may well compromise on a phablet.

This has been great for the corporate market for a while. If someone has to manage a group of, say, a thousand people and they all want to bring their own £500 worth of device with them, that’s an obvious £500,000 the business doesn’t have to find. Even with discount breaks it would be a substantial amount. All the business has to do is to support them.

And here the trouble starts. Support professionals are now aware that their colleagues might choose top of the range offerings from premium companies (remember Samsung is not, repeat not, a chancer or inferior organisation somehow) and anything might happen.

Years ago I spoke to a company whose corporate app froze when Apple released the first upgrade to the iPad. Its response was to restrict employees to using Blackberrys (come to think of it, the guy never did explain how this was supposed to compensate for a tablet). Now we have a perfectly reputable manufacturer recalling a product because of fire risk.

It’s worth noting that this was a phablet, too. In other words it’s an unusually large phone, so a number of companies will have been developing apps to take advantage of this.

Samsung ushering out BYOD?

It is to be hoped that this is an isolated instance of course, but the pace of technological development suggests it may not be. One possible reaction from the technical community could be to implement CYOD – Choose Your Own Device, from an approved list, rather than bring in just anything – rather than full-blown BYOD. Nobody that we’re aware of has made any such move as yet, but the Samsung withdrawal happened only an hour ago. Another response is to increase the skills of the IT professional, although what you’d need to teach to prepare people for unexpected fires is open to speculation.

It will be instructive to see whether any businesses start quietly writing caveats into their BYOD policies after this.