Achilles was dipped in the River Styx by his mother Thetis so that he would be invulnerable—in every area except his ankle, where she held him. A poison arrow ultimately found the vulnerability and the great, albeit temperamental, warrior of the Trojan War was brought low.

An ankle? One reason to love the Greek myths is their narrative drive, which combine film-ready heroes and drama and faith and betrayal with the profoundly anti-Hollywood ways in which the Olympians punish hubris: No movie hero is going to be felled by a ligament tear (“The Bourne ACL”).

The iPad, by any reasonable accounting the tech marvel of 2010, is the poison arrow seeking Microsoft’s heel. It doesn’t matter that there are “only” several million iPads in existence, just as the number of IBM PCs sold in 1981 was not the issue. The issue, now as it was then, is the importance of “personal” when it comes to computing devices. When people become delighted by a machine, they want that delight at work. Corporate policy or not, immediate practicality or not—it didn’t matter then, it doesn’t matter now.

I recently heard an IT admin specifically ask about supporting new technology “such as iPads.” We software developers may complain about the rate at which we must learn new technologies, but pity the poor IT team, which is already being pressured about supporting a device that didn’t exist a year ago! And the ensuing conversation foreshadowed the inevitable outcome.

The IT admin made perfectly valid points about security, resources and policies. And then someone asked how many of those sitting around the table had connected their smartphones to the corporate network in defiance of those very same issues. It may not have been the most polite way to make the point, but resistance, as the Borg have taught us, is futile.

So too, inevitably with iPads. People will figure out how to connect them to, at least, the corporate e-mail server. From there, it’s just a matter of time for them to struggle with the challenge of reading and editing documents. Here’s where the poison enters…

About Larry O Brien