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You know how in New Zealand, the sheep supposedly outnumber the people? At Cisco Systems, the number of mobile devices could soon outnumber the number of employees.

There are 50,538 smartphones and tablets in use at Cisco, which has 71,825 employees. Not only does that already comprise a ratio of one device per 1.4 employees, said Lance Perry, vice-president of IT customer strategy and success for  Cisco, during an excellent presentation at the Consumerization of IT in  the Enterprise (CITE) conference in San Francisco on Monday.

But the 50,000+ device figure is also an increase of 52% from just 12 months earlier.

I gleaned 5 things from this slide:

1) iPhone dominates - nearly 21,000 devices, up 10x in last 2 years.

2) BlackBerries are treading water, in absolute terms, though their share of overall usage has fallen by more than half.

3) Android usage is growing fast, driven by Millennials and other young people, said Perry.

4) Fittingly, Cisco might have the largest deployments of Cisco Cius tablets, with more than 2,000 tablets.

5) The 8,144 iPads used by Cisco ranks them 7th on my list of the largest public iPad deployments.

Another really interesting thing about Cisco's deployment is that it is 100% Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Employees have complete freedom to choose whatever device they want.

Just because Cisco is a Silicon Valley giant that is routinely ranked among the Best Places to Work doesn't mean that it's always been liberal about employees' choice of devices. As recently as 2005, Perry was asked by his bosses to "make it so the wireless doesn't work with" the Macs that employees were bringing to work.

Perry didn't see the point of that. Not only were those employees buying the Macs on their own dime, but they didn't use any help desk resources. Whereas the average Windows-using employee made "ten calls a year at $19 a per call," he said. And the Mac-toting workers seemed happier for it.

This led Cisco to make BYOD and device agnosticism available to every employee. That boosted penetration. Today, an impressive 51% of employees use mobile devices at Cisco (sad to say, that may top SAP, which has 40% of workers carrying iPads or iPhones).

Moreover, "our satisfaction went through the moon," Perry said. "If we don't pay for it, and our users are happier, isn't that a beautiful thing?" (To learn about what Strategy Analytics thinks is the ratio of BYOD to corporate-deployed tablets in the enterprise, click here.)

While Cisco requires employees to pay for their own hardware, it does  pay  the service fees for about two-fifths of them. That's a hefty  savings, since an annual subscription can total 2-3 times the cost of a  single device. Those employees need to get vice-presidential approval,  said Perry.

About  9,000 employees pay their service fees out of their own   pocket.  But Cisco does have employee discounts with many carriers,  Perry said. And that segment - employee-paid - is growing 5x faster than  the other, said Brett Belding, an IT manager at Cisco helping oversee  the BYOD service.


Befitting a networking vendor with strong security offerings, Cisco has a comprehensive policy for what it categorizes as "trusted devices", requiring encryption, 10 minute inactivity resulting in automatic lockout, 4-digit PIN codes to unlock and remote wipe capabilities. These capabilities are stricter than non-encrypted "alternative devices," which are only secured with PIN and remote wipe.

Here's a slide showing Cisco's overall mobile security model.  A last miscellaneous comment: Perry said he's a fan of desktop virtualization for mobile, not only for boosting security, but for cost savings. "If you're very very diligent, you can get 17% to 22% savings," he said.

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