November 05, 2009, 2:10 PM — Terry Kline likes Windows 7, the iPhone, a PC on a USB drive and cloud computing services.
And Kline's preferences matter -- a lot. As the new CIO of General Motors Corp., Kline oversees the technology budget of what is still one of the world's largest buyers of corporate IT products, despite its recent brush with bankruptcy protection.
Kline, a nine-year veteran of GM's IT operation and most recently the company's global product development process information officer, took over the CIO post held by his former boss, Ralph Szygenda , who retired Oct. 1.
GM's sheer size -- nearly $150 billion in 2008 sales and still employing about 235,000 workers -- means that just about anything the company's CIO does gets the attention of IT vendors and watchers.
Szygenda reshaped GM's businesses processes, adopted global standards for managing IT, and used the power of $15 billion in outsourcing contracts to convince the company's vendors to deliver products that interoperate. For instance, GM was the major force in encouraging Microsoft and Sun Microsystems to collaborate on identity management technologies, which the company sees as critical to improving the productivity of employees, contractors, dealers and anyone else involved with its operations.
Like Szygenda before him, Kline is readying broad changes and the adoption of new technologies that will have broad impact both within and outside GM.
For example, Kline said in an interview this week, the company plans to replace 100,000 Windows XP-based laptops and PCs with Windows 7-based "next gen" desktops that will include mobile device integration capabilities and additional collaboration tools, such as video conferencing. The mobile and desktop environments are getting "extreme focus" he said.
Kline said that he believes Windows 7 is "a big enabler of productivity" and will be an "easier operating system to sustain from an IT cost perspective."
The GM corporate standard for mobility is currently Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices, though Kline said he wants to add support for other devices, including Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone.
"I'm a big iPhone user, my kids are big iPhone users," said Kline, while noting that he's looking to support other devices as well. "We have to open our environment to mobility, not just the Blackberry."